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Port security tightened in wake of Kim’s death

Airlines concerned about passenger cuts from China, Japan

The government tightened security in airports and seaports Tuesday, a day after the announcement of the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, while the airline industry fears a possible drop in passengers.

The Korea Customs Service ordered affiliate agencies to “thoroughly examine goods coming in from countries with a large terrorist presence including socialist nations and countries whose nationals have been caught for attempting to bring in terrorism-related items.”

The KCS launched an emergency operation system for the first time after the North’s shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in November last year.

“The emergency operation system and the bolstered inspection in airports and seaports will be maintained until it is deemed that there is no more danger,” a KCS official said.

Inspection of travelers’ carry-on baggage will be toughened in case of attempts to smuggle in firearms and knives.

The number of customs officials for X-ray inspection of express cargo and mail packages will be doubled.

Seaport authorities will reinforce naval patrol and search of ships directly or indirectly related to nations with a large terrorist presence.

The KCS headquarters and customs offices across the country will have a person per department on watch 24 hours to report to the KCS chief in case of emergencies.

If the risks due to Kim’s death stretch out, the airline industry could see a drop in travelers and losses coming from the Korean won’s depreciation.

“If tension heightens on the Korean Peninsula, there could be a reduction in Japanese and Chinese travelers to Korea,” an official at an airliner said.

Korean Air and Asiana Airlines started loading additional fuel on their aircraft starting Monday in case they need to detour when flying near North Korean airspace.

Korean flag carriers had used the Kamchatka route for flights flying to North America and Far East Russia until North Korea’s attack on a South Korean naval ship last March. They have been detouring toward Japan since then.

Asiana and Korean Air have ordered the loading of additional fuel to keep the planes flying for another 90 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively, immediately after the news report that Kim Jong-il was dead.

By Kim So-hyun  (