S.Korea airports introduce body scanners despite criticism

SEOUL, July 1, 2010 (AFP) - South Korean airports Thursday began testing full body scanners to screen passengers, despite complaints from the state human rights watchdog that they violate personal privacy.

Six full body scanners made by British or US firms have been installed at four international airports at Incheon, Gimpo, Gimhae and Jeju, the transport ministry said.

"Airports will start using them probably in late July after a month-long test operation and education," a ministry official in charge of airport security told AFP.

On Wednesday the National Human Rights Commission urged the ministry to cancel its plan to introduce the scanners, fearing they may violate privacy as they can generate images of the entire body.

The images can be leaked and used improperly, the watchdog said, citing a case in which a British airport official used the scanner to take pictures of his female colleague.

The ministry official, however, insisted South Korean airports would not give up what he called an effective way of preventing terrorism.

"As seen in many other countries, full body scanners are very effective. We will use them after working out measures to protect personal privacy," he said.

"Passengers can opt to go through manual scanning, and controversial images created by scanners will be blurred," he said, adding airport officials would be barred from storing or transmitting images.

The machines have proved controversial in several parts of the world but some European countries and the United States are introducing them.

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