26 September 2023
COVID-19Fact checkFalse

False: This video does not show a man vandalizing ‘vaccine passport verification’ machines

The video was taken in 2017. It shows an intoxicated man thrashing self check-in machines at the Incheon International Airport, according to a news report.

A video posted on Twitter on Oct. 4 shows a man smashing what appears to be some sort of document scanning device with a suitcase in an airport.

The accompanying text in the tweet claimed in Chinese that the person is trying to destroy “vaccine passport verification machines.”

The post was later deleted but when Annie Lab saw it, the tweet had 404 retweets, 28 quote tweets and 954 likes.

The same video has also been shared on another social media platform Gettr. This post additionally indicates that the incident took place in China. It has 168 likes and 91 reposts, as of this writing.

However, this claim is false. Visual evidence from the clip and related news articles show the video was taken in 2017, years before COVID-19 pandemic.

South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported this incident on May 7, 2017, which said the 47-year-old man identified as Yang was intoxicated when he smashed the self check-in machines at the departure hall on the third floor of Incheon International Airport on May 2, 2017.

Yang was then restrained by airport security officers after a Jeju Air employee notified security, according to the news report. It also said Yang suffered from mental illnesses and has been fined for violating the Public Official Election Act in the past.

Clues from the video

The location

Using keyword search, Annie Lab was able to find a higher quality version of the video on YouTube that was uploaded on Jan. 4, 2019.

The YouTube video shows five check-in machines were vandalized, which is consistent with the police report quoted by Chosun Ilbo.

In this version, signs like the floor number “3” and the check-in counter section “E” are discernible.

Annie Lab matched those with an image found through Google maps street view and can confirm the incident took place on the third floor of Incheon Airport.

For example, the surrounding areas of the CIP & Airport Club sign seen in the video matches exactly with what the street view photo shows. An official airport map also confirms its location.

Comparison of the screenshot from the YouTube video and a Google Maps street view image.


Comparison of the screenshot from the YouTube video and a Google Maps street view image.

A four-year-old video

Annie Lab also found a blog post published on April 23, 2017, that shows the same airport promotional poster we can see in the video.

It contains the text, “World’s Best Airport for 12 consecutive years,” referring to the award Incheon Airport won for the 12th time in that year when it was named the best airport by the Airport Council International in March.

This promotional material also indicates the video was taken not earlier than March 2017 or recently (presumably such an old poster would have been taken down in a busy international airport before the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic).

A photo uploaded to the Korean website Daum shows a promotional material similar to the one seen in the background of the YouTube video at 0:46.
Comparison of the poster seen in the video with the original poster found on Daum encircled in green by Annie Lab.

The earliest cases of COVID-19 were first announced on Dec. 31, 2019. A Taiwan fact-checking organization, MyGoPen, has also debunked the claim here.