What might be the world’s most dangerous airport is far away from the ongoing turmoil in Israel, Syria, Iraq, or Ukraine.
Instead, the airport most susceptible to a rocket strike on an incoming plane among those used by major carriers could be Incheon International Airport, near Seoul, South Korea.
Incheon is considered one of the best airports in the world. It won a 2014 Airport Service Quality Award from Airport Council International, its ninth win in as many years. The airport has a casino, golf course, and spa. It handled over 41 million passengers in 2013.
With such a plethora of entertainment options, it is easy to forget that Incheon is located within striking range of the North Korean artillery pieces that ring the world’s longest militarized border.
“If North Korea decided to start a war with the U.S., where most of its verbal threats are, it would strike Incheon,” Steven Frischling, a blogger and aviation security analyst, told Business Insider. “Taking out Incheon and Gimpo [the second major South Korean airport] would be the first warning shot.”
“North Korea can easily hit it,” Frischling warned. “They can easily target the airport far back from the DMZ.”
If North Korea were to attack Incheon, there would be little that South Korea could do to protect the aircraft or passengers at the airport.
“None of the aircraft in Korean or Japanese airlines have any defenses. It wouldn’t be surface-to-air missiles taking out the aircraft anyway, it would just be missiles and bombs taking out the airport,” Frischling said.
Incheon “would be a primary target if North Korea ever woke up and decided they wanted to do something,” he added.
There’s little suggesting that North Korea is in immediate danger of shelling the airport, or of taking potshots at planes flying out of South Korea’s international gateway. The situation remains tense in the Korean Peninsula — but an attack on Incheon is more of an operational possibility at the moment, rather than an imminent scenario.
Still, North Korea, which has the world’s fifth largest military by manpower, is prone to unexpected acts of aggression.
In May, North Korea fired at least one shell at a South Korean patrol ship. In 2010, North Korea came dangerously close to sparking a major escalation in the Peninsula when it shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island, killing two soldiers and sending dozens of civilians fleeing from their homes. The north routinely fires ballistic missiles into the sea.
South Korea and North Korea technically still remain at war, as the Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice that is still in place.
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