On May 24th, domestic flights at Gimpo International Airport fell into chaos. Massive delays due to overloaded security screening of checked baggage. At the airport, when a flight is delayed, subsequent departures are delayed one after another. On this day, flight delays occurred from as little as tens of minutes to as long as two hours. Fortunately, the airport nightmare ends in one day. From the 25th, the airport will return without problems.
However, I have a question here. why the hell Did the security check overload problem only happen on May 24th? There were no problems as well as the previous day, the 23rd. The next day, the 25th, and even after that, the airport was calm. What the hell happened at Gimpo Airport on May 24th?
● ‘Spray’ paralyzed the airport?The ostensible reason for the massive delay is said to be due to checked baggage security checks. There were many students leaving for school trips on the same day, and items that violated security were found in their checked luggage. One of them was ‘Spray’.
By the way, spray is an item that can be sent as checked baggage under the regulations. In the meantime, it hasn’t been a problem. However, it is known that the security authorities requested an intense security search that day. It is said that the order was not issued in an official document, but word was circulating that a sudden strong security order came down at the site.
However, sprays containing inflammable substances cannot be sent as checked baggage. This is because, as a rule, sprays containing ignitable or inflammable substances cannot be brought in. Aerosols, flammable insecticide sprays, etc. are not allowed to be brought in, and there are some products that cannot be brought in, even hairspray depending on the type and ingredients.
In addition, it is said that the security authorities ordered a full investigation of liquids as some problematic liquids were discovered that day. In fact, on that day, the information board near the airport ticket counter read, “Due to the current security screening measures, liquids cannot be checked in as baggage. Please remove liquids from your luggage and take them on board.” An employee working at Gimpo Airport said, “Liquids can be brought in. However, if you see that you are not allowed to bring liquids, something has gone wrong on site with regards to liquids inspection.”
●’Law-compliance struggle’ and ‘open inspection’Let’s put the situation together. △ On this day, items that cannot be brought in were found in some checked baggage. △ A word came out from the security authorities to the effect of strengthening security and search. △ It’s about to become a situation where you have to look more closely at your checked baggage. Given the circumstances, there is no problem at all.
However, there are some cases where the ‘field’ should not adhere only to principles. Checked baggage goes through the security checkpoint ( X-RAY ) and undergoes a primary inspection, and if there are any suspicious items, the bag is directly inspected. This is called ‘open inspection’.
But what happens when you open and inspect all your luggage on site? Airports are paralyzed. Conveyor belts that move checked baggage are limited, and manpower is limited. It’s actually impossible to open all the luggage one by one. Security checkpoints also exist to increase efficiency.
However, an intense security inspection order came down from the security authorities, so the security officers increased the opening inspection. However, when the opening inspection was done properly, an absurd incident occurred that caused problems with airport operation.
An official from the security industry said, “There is search know-how accumulated in the field. There are some things that have not been a problem because they do not violate security. However, if you just do everything according to the principles, the airport will be paralyzed. There is a specificity of the site, so it is necessary to show some flexibility within the range where safety is guaranteed, but if you stubbornly insist on principles, no answer comes out.”
Airport operation should also be taken care of, but the security authorities seem to have emphasized the principle of principle. It seems that a thorough search has been requested because of recent security problems, both large and small. Then, it is said that the security staff also conducted unboxing inspections more diligently under the name of ‘abiding the law’. The security authorities told us to handle things according to the so-called ‘ FM (a term that refers to doing something in strict adherence to principles)’, so the security officers also handled everything according to ‘ FM ‘. All luggage was opened and inspected according to the principle. This is the background of the saying that “the security personnel fought a ‘compliance struggle’” at the site that day.
Anyone can see that the airport is now paralyzed, but a situation has occurred where no one can say, “Increase the efficiency of security inspections and exercise flexibility.” Because if something goes wrong, the person who said it takes all the blame.
An airport worker said, “I asked the security authorities to withdraw all inspections, but they said they were only reviewing it. Things happened, but I didn’t want to take responsibility for anyone, so I stuck to the principles and this happened.”
Poor security industry treatmentThen, why did the security officers conduct a security inspection that was so intense that it was called a law-abiding struggle? We need to hear a little more from the security industry. In Korea, when a security incident occurs, there is a strong tendency to focus on ‘finding the person in charge’. Rather than examining the cause of the accident in detail, it often comes down to ‘punish the person responsible’ while arguing about who was at fault. After all, most of the arrows of security incidents are directed at security personnel. In severe cases, disciplinary and legal penalties are also imposed. In the end, even in order not to create responsibility for security officers, they would have had no choice but to conduct intensive security inspections at the request of the security authorities.
To make matters worse, there is also a shortage of security industry personnel. During the novel coronavirus period (COVID-19), security personnel are leaving the airport a lot. However, even though passenger demand is recovering after the corona, security personnel are not filled.
According to Park Sang-hyeok, the office of the Democratic Party of Korea, as of early May, the number of security screening agents at Incheon International Airport is 1,520, short of 360, compared to the quota of 1,890. That means there are about 20% fewer people than the capacity. The number of security personnel at Gimpo International Airport is 283 as of April, 23 (7.5%) short of the quota of 306. Up through 2019, we have rarely failed to fill a quota for this position.
Security personnel are literally overloaded. You may ask whether it is enough to fill the manpower. However, they say that even if they post a job announcement saying they are hiring a security guard, people don’t come. Even if they are hired, there is a significant rate of quitting after going through the recruitment process, or leaving the company in a short period of time even if they are accepted. This is the background of the continuing labor shortage안전놀이터.
According to the industry, to become a security screening agent, you must undergo more than 200 hours of training. Because salaries are not paid during the training period, it is said that about 20% of applicants who were selected with difficulty choose to give up due to economic reasons. It is known that the salary is also at the level of the minimum wage until the 7th year.
However, the work intensity is high compared to the low treatment. If an accident occurs, you may be held legally responsible, so security work has become a job that is avoided. When there is not enough on-site security personnel, on-site workers are overburdened with more work, which leads to a vicious cycle of job turnover and resignation. In the first quarter of this year (January to March) alone, 50 people leave Incheon Airport. An employee working at Incheon Airport said, “The work intensity is high, such as being at the airport for 13 to 15 hours a day, but there is not much time to rest due to lack of manpower.” The treatment is not improving,” he said.
In a situation where complaints are aggravated by low treatment and high work intensity, it seems that complaints have erupted in the form of a ‘compliance struggle’ as there is even an intensive security check order to conduct inspections correctly. An official from a security company said, “Would you want to cause a security accident just because you are a security guard? I have to consider the situation at the site, just roll and peck, and pass the responsibility on, who would want to work?” Airport security officers have a lot of responsibilities, but they don’t have the same authority as public authority. If the various problems mentioned above lead to low morale and avoidance of work, the risk of accidents inevitably increases.
Structural issues surrounding airport securitySo you’re saying don’t do the security check properly? It may be said that you have not done the security check properly in the meantime. you’re right. Security checks should be done properly. However, this is not a matter of thinking only in this dichotomy. As explained above, if security checks are performed according to the principle, there will be a major disruption to airport operations. To achieve both efficiency and security at the airport, you can drastically increase your workforce by increasing security checkpoints and improving the treatment of security guards. All you have to do is increase your investment in security.
However, this is not as easy as it sounds. In the end, it’s a matter of budget and will. Promoting projects related to airport infrastructure is one of the roles of Korea Airports Corporation. However, Korea Airports Corporation is also a public corporation and an institution that executes the budget according to the law. Giving budgets to security companies operating as subsidiaries has no choice but to give according to the principles of service contracts based on legal grounds.
You can also make money by raising airport fees, etc., and invest it in security infrastructure. However, raising the airport fee is not something Korea Airports Corporation can do alone. Upper authority approval is required. It’s not something that will happen just by one person.
When the problem of airport paralysis arose, the Korea Airports Corporation came up with various solutions. We sent an official letter to the Office of Education asking school travelers to make sure that they educate school travelers about prohibited items. We also asked airlines to provide clear explanations of the rules for items in breach of security to passengers checking in checked baggage. It is also a way to prevent sprays or liquids from being sent as checked baggage, but it inevitably reduces the convenience of passengers.
But are these fundamental solutions? The chaos at Gimpo Airport on May 24 was a comprehensive expression of the invisible conflicts that existed in the security field and the structural problems and complaints that had accumulated so far. It was a symbolic incident that showed that the airport’s security system and security personnel issues, the reality of the security field, the status and role of security personnel, and related laws should all be reexamined.
Everyone agrees on the principle that security and security are important. However, how much attention have we paid to security that is so important? How active was the discussion to unravel a complex story? The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, the security authorities, and the aviation industry all know the problem. However, no one is stepping out. If an accident breaks out in the meantime, we will go looking for the person responsible again. It is time for a sober evaluation of the level of aviation security in Korea.