Aircraft terror hoax in South Korea receives justice

By Chanwoo Yong, The Readable
Mar. 11, 2024 8:59PM GMT+9

A South Korean individual who issued threats online to commit a terrorist act on an airplane has been handed a suspended prison sentence. The court found the defendant guilty, citing the significant waste of police resources and the creation of social unrest triggered by the offense.

On February 28, the Suwon District Court delivered a verdict for a suspect charged with obstruction of official duties through fraudulent means and intimidation. The indictment came from the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office. The court sentenced the individual to 10 months in prison but suspended the sentence for two years. Additionally, the court mandated 120 hours of community service for the convicted individual.

On December 22 last year, the defendant accessed the live chat feature on the online streaming platform “Afreeca TV.” Under an anonymous nickname, he posted a message that read, “Hello, I am an airplane terrorist. I will commit a terrorist act on the 10 o’clock flight.” This comment signaled an intention to execute a terrorist act on a flight scheduled to depart from Jeju Airport at 10 p.m. that same day.

Following a report from a citizen, the Gyeonggi Nambu Provincial Police swiftly sought assistance from the Jeju Provincial Police. In response, the Jeju Provincial Police’s counter-terrorism unit urgently mobilized and dispatched 48 officers to Jeju International Airport. This contingent included 13 members of the special operations unit, 10 guards, and members of the riot squad. They conducted a thorough search for explosives and patrolled the area, an operation that spanned three hours.

The defendant was urgently apprehended around 11 p.m. that night in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province. According to the Jeju Provincial Police, following his arrest, he told the officers that his threat was intended as a joke, inspired by hearing that a broadcaster on Afreeca TV whose followers are around 24,000 was boarding the flight.

The court recognized the severity of his actions but also took into account that he had no genuine intention to follow through with the threat and showed remorse for his actions. As a result, the court chose to suspend the execution of his sentence for two years.

The cover image of this article was designed by Areum Hwang. This article was edited by Dain Oh and copyedited by Arthur Gregory Willers.

Chanwoo Yong is a reporting intern for The Readable. Majoring in cybersecurity at Korea University, Yong has an intense interest in cybercrime and cybercriminals as well as a passion for making cybersecurity and its surrounding issues understandable to the general reader. Yong aspires to become a bridge between cybersecurity experts and the public by translating the experts’ language into layman’s terms the public can understand. Yong has worked as a data engineer for an AI Platform belonging to Korea University Anam Hospital, where he participated in research titled “Deep Learning-Based Prediction Model for Gait Recovery after Spinal Cord Injury.”