On the afternoon of Tuesday this week, at the Incheon Airport Customs International Mail Clearance Center, 'Dillon,' a Labrador Retriever breed, tirelessly navigated the conveyor belt, sniffing parcels. Now four years old, Dillon sniffed each package several times in his second year as a drug detection dog. The handler standing beside Dillon repeatedly commanded "Find it." Last year, Dillon detected over 40 cases of drug smuggling.
During one of his many sniffs, Dillon sat in front of a box, firmly planting his nose and refusing to move – a signal of suspected drugs. Customs officers promptly lifted the box, which contained items with drug scents, used for Dillon's training. Through a training exercise, the handler rewarded Dillon with a ring-shaped toy, turning the task of finding drugs into a sort of game. The training process for detection dogs involves conditioning them to enjoy the scent of drugs or explosives, encouraging them to detect these substances.
Dillon is one of the 39 active customs agency detection dogs. They are deployed at airports including Incheon, Gimpo, and Jeju, and also at passenger ports such as Incheon Port, detecting drugs daily. Drug detection dogs, with a sense of smell up to 10,000 times more acute than humans, are specialized in quickly finding drugs smuggled into the country, even detecting quantities as small as 0.01g. So far this year, until October, detection dogs have been instrumental in uncovering 71 cases, totaling 8.9 kg of drugs. "The 39 detection dogs play a significant role, finding over 10% of the total drug seizures,” and “They also have a substantial deterrent effect at airports and ports.”
This year, Korea became a drug detection dog exporting country for the first time in 36 years, shifting from an importer to an exporter. In August, the customs agency delivered two Labrador Retrievers, like Dillon, to Thailand's Customs Department. This marks the first time Korea has exported detection dogs. In 1987, Korea expanded its use of detection dogs from explosives, initially employing six dogs donated by the United States, to include drug detection.
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