The jet descending to Seoul’s Incheon airport managed to escape any harm as it was too far away from the soldiers, who were stationed on Gyodong island, 1.7 kilometres south of the North Korean coast. They managed to mistake the A321 for a jet from North Korea, its northerly neighbor who it lacks peaceful relations with. South Korean soldiers had been alerted to possible provocative acts by North Korea and are reported to have rules of engagement that do not quire superior approval.
“When the plane appeared over Jumun island, soldiers mistook it as a North Korean military aircraft and fired,” a Marine Corps official told Yonhap, the AFP says.
The aircraft was “flying normally” and following a normal route from Chengdu, China, an air traffic controller told the AFP.
An Asiana spokeswoman said the military checked-up with the airline after the incident, and confirmed to the AFP there was no damage.
The AFP adds that local newspaper Yonhap says the Marine Corps will step up training for soldiers to help them distinguish civilian aircraft from enemy jets.
In other aircraft shootings incidents, the military of the French overseas territory of Reunion needs no help distinguishing jets but does require help distinguishing blank cartridges from live ones after a counter-hijacking exercise used real bullets and left a hole in one of the carrier’s Boeing 777-300ERs.
And then of course there was the 737 from US Airways Airlines that encountered a stray bullet in March.