Log in

South Korean arrested for opening plane emergency exit door, faces up to 10 years in prison


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — A man who opened an emergency exit door during a flight in South Korea was formally arrested Sunday and faces up to 10 years in prison on a charge of violating the aviation security law, officials said.

During a preliminary questioning, the 33-year-old told investigators that he felt suffocated and tried to get off the plane quickly, according to police.

Twelve people were slightly injured on Friday after he opened the door of the Asiana Airlines Airbus A321-200, causing air to blast inside the cabin. The plane was preparing to land in Daegu on an hour-long flight from the southern island of Jeju.

On Sunday, a district court in Daegu approved a warrant to formally arrest the man. Police earlier sought the arrest warrant, citing the graveness of the crime and a possibility the man may flee, according to Daegu police.

Daegu police said they have up to 20 days to investigate the man before determining whether to send him to prosecutors for a possible indictment.

If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for breaching the aviation security law that bars passengers from handling entry doors, emergency exit doors and other equipment on board, according to the Transport Ministry.

Daegu police said the man, surnamed Lee, told them that he was under stress after losing a job recently and that he wanted to get out of the plane soon because he was feeling suffocated just before landing.

The plane was carrying 200 people, 194 of them passengers including teenage athletes on their way to a track and field competition. The man pulled the door open when the plane was reaching the Daegu airport at an altitude of 700 feet (213 meters), according to the Transport Ministry.

The people who were taken to hospitals were mainly treated for minor problems such as breathing difficulties.