GANGNEUNG, March 7 (Korea Bizwire) — With the mammoth task of ensuring peace and security during the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics behind them, the men and women largely responsible for what one police insider has assessed as “the safest Olympics ever” remain focused on doing it all over again throughout the Winter Paralympics set to begin this Friday.
Despite initial fears over safety because of North Korea, South Korea’s first Winter Games, hosted 30 years after the 1988 Summer Olympics based in Seoul, opened and closed without a hitch.
A major portion of the credit belongs to the Gangwon Provincial Police Agency, which flooded the Olympic region with personnel – up to 280,000 man-days, according to the police force.
These massive numbers all played their respective parts superbly.
Throughout the 16-day international event, police command set up their base of operations at the on-site headquarters to take a direct role in overseeing security operations.
Counterterrorism teams were stationed near sites deemed to be at risk of terrorist attacks and kept cutting-edge UAVs and radar systems to deter aerial threats in full readiness.
Almost 2,000 guards were positioned at security checkpoints leading to Olympic facilities, and a security sweep of the facilities was conducted once a day.
Out on the slopes, a 16-unit emergency response team equipped with skis and snowmobiles kept a lookout for trouble at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre and Phoenix Snow Park where ski and snowboard events were held.
Back on the Olympics grounds, meanwhile, officers on horseback, an uncommon sight for South Koreans hailing from Seoul, and on two-wheel standing scooters carried out patrols to the delight of many.
Thanks to the beefed up police presence, though phone calls made to the police increased by 49 percent from the same period last year, response times shrank.
The number of murder, violent crime and cases of robbery and theft that are referred to as “The Four Crimes” throughout the Olympic period was 48, a near 50 percent drop from the 93 last year.
Seventeen crimes involving foreigners were detected and speedily handled, while not a single crime targeting a foreigner was reported on the Olympic grounds.
Other notable actions taken by the police – actions that illustrate the overall peaceful quality of the Olympics — were 10 counts of counterfeited or misuse of AD cards (approved personnel badges), 344 interceptions of attempts to bring in banned items and 19 missing children reunited with their parents.
At a meeting held two days after the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics, Gangwon police commissioner Won Gyeong-hwan praised the efforts of local law enforcement, but added, “Keeping the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics safe will be the true success. Therefore, I ask Gangwon police to focus their efforts for the remaining duration.”
Noting the different challenges posed by the Paralympics, Won said additional units would be stationed at police service centers throughout the area. He added that all police personnel would be thoroughly trained on the appropriate ways to interact with the disabled.
The moves are interpreted as the police chief taking extra care to prevent mistakes that would diminish accumulated goodwill.
With the PyeongChang police headquarters continuing to be in 24-hour operation even throughout the interval between the two winter events, it is evident that those on the front lines have taken their commissioner’s words to heart.
In the lead-up to the Paralympics, the police issued a statement on March 4 that officers would once again blanket the area, this time for 72,000 man-days.
While standard security procedures such as counterterrorist measures will once again be adopted, what has drawn interest are the police’s attempts to provide a more comfortable experience for visitors.
One of these initiatives is the utilization of a sign language app to assist the deaf when communicating with the police. The app contains pictures of hand signals and explanations of 37 commonly used expressions by the South Korean police.
Also in use will be a sign language translation app that returns the correct hand signals after inputting text.
If all goes according to plan, Gangwon’s police officers will have done their part to promote a positive image of South Korea to the world, just as they did last month.
On February 25, a Gangwon police car gave a Slovenian man who had lost his way a ride to an Olympic venue. Revealing that he was a police officer back home, he remarked, “Even though I am a police officer, I was astonished with the courtesy of the Korean police.”
Expressing his thanks, the man said, “When I return home I will give a ride to Koreans I meet.”
Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)