Police said Saturday they have received over 1,600 reports of suspicious international packages in the past three days across the nation amid concerns that the parcels might contain an unspecified hazardous material.
Police said they have received a total of 1,647 reports related to the delivery of dubious parcels from abroad, mostly from Taiwan, since Thursday.
Regional government authorities sent out an emergency alert to citizens not to open such parcels in cases where the identity of the sender is not clear. They also advised people to report suspicious international packages to police or fire fighters.
In most parcels, lip balm or other cheap products were found, with some packages delivered empty.
Police said they will decide whether to launch an investigation, depending on the results of substance analysis. Police seem to see the possibility of terrorism as low, as no hazardous material has been detected in such parcels.
Reports of suspicious international packages began Thursday, when a random parcel from Taiwan was delivered to a welfare center for the disabled in the southeastern city of Ulsan.
Three people working at the facility who unpacked it were sent to a hospital as they suffered dizziness and difficulty breathing.
Police suspected a toxic gas from the parcel might have affected them. But a test by the state-run defense research agency found that there was no hazardous material.
Police are looking into the possibility of a "brushing scam," in which sellers at online shopping platforms send unordered products to people after illegally acquiring personal information. The scam is aimed at boosting sales and manipulating sellers' ratings on online shopping sites.
Authorities called for vigilance against suspicious international parcels. They said the color of such packages could be yellow or black, and they could have "CHUNGHWA POST" written on them. The sender could be P.O. Box 100561-003777, Taipei Taiwan.
The Taipei Mission in South Korea said it had found that such parcels were initially sent from China and arrived in South Korea after a stopover in Taiwan.
Taiwan's customs agency has conducted a probe over the delivery route of the suspected packages, and the mission said it has shared the results of the probe with the South Korean police and related agencies for close cooperation.
The Korea Customs Service (KCS) said it has taken measures to strengthen customs clearance in order to prevent the entry of similarly suspicious parcels.
The KCS said it will withhold customs clearance for suspicious international items with shipping information similar or the same to those on packages reported to law enforcement authorities.
The agency added that it will send the parcels back to their place of origin if x-ray inspections confirm that they are empty.
Source: Yonhap News Agency