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Air travelers warned of ‘naked’ security checks

Travelers to South Korea may be asked to receive a “naked” security check at the Incheon airport, the Shanghai Airport Authority said yesterday after a Korean newspaper reported it was secretly X-raying passengers believed to be a security risk.

The X-ray machine scans the whole body to check whether an individual is carrying restricted items such as knives. The machines are faster than a manual check.

But since the scan also reveals the shape of a person’s private parts, it was nicknamed the “naked check” machine and criticized by air travelers around the world.

The airport will scan those who are regarded as “having a potential threat to the aircraft and other passengers onboard,” according to a list from the US Transportation Security Administration will have to undergo the special check.

“Some 40,000 passengers were scanned with the machines in three years, and many locals might be among them,” the Shanghai Airport Authority said.

The Incheon airport marks “SSSS” on a passenger’s boarding card to suggest security staff carry out the full body X-ray, the authority said.

The machine costs about 120,000 euros (US$164,000) and is mainly being used at airports in the US, UK, Germany and the Netherlands.

The “naked” security check was criticized by some Chinese who said it was an invasion of privacy.

“I will never travel to South Korea because of this sick inspection, a traveler surnamed Tan said. “I am not even willing to transfer at Incheon in the future.”

Incheon International Airport, which serves Seoul and the surrounding area, is a major air traffic hub for flights to North America and Pacific regions.

The Incheon airport completed full body X-ray checks on some 40,000 passengers since 2010 without the knowledge of passengers, the South Korean AJU Business Daily reported, citing a senior official with the national land and traffic commission.

The Incheon airport authority said they were simply following regulations.