(ATTN: UPDATES with passenger accounts in last 4 paras)
SEOUL/DAEGU, May 26 (Yonhap) -- A passenger opened a door of an Asiana Airlines plane right before landing at Daegu International Airport on Friday, leaving a dozen passengers with breathing difficulty, but the plane landed safely, officials said.
Police detained the 33-year-old man on suspicions of pulling the door lever.
After departing from Jeju Island, the plane was on its way to Daegu, 237 kilometers southeast of Seoul, when a door suddenly opened at 12:45 p.m., according to airport officials and industry sources. The plane shortly landed with the door open.
The aircraft was about 250 meters above ground when the door opened, officials said.
None of the 194 people aboard fell out of the plane or were hurt, but 12 panicked passengers showed symptoms of breathing difficulty and some of them were taken to a hospital. They were not in serious condition and could have experienced overbreathing, officials said.
When the suspect tried to pull the lever of the exit door, flight attendants were not able to stop him because the plane was about to land.
Police said he was not drunk at the time of detention, but remained tight-lipped about why he did so.
"It is difficult to have a normal conversation with him," an official said. "We will investigate the motive of the crime and punish him."
Police said he was traveling alone.
Witnesses said the suspect attempted to jump out after opening the door.
"Flight attendants shouted for help from male passengers and people all around clung to him and pulled him in," a witness said.
Among the passengers were 48 elementary- and middle-school athletes scheduled to compete in a national sports event on Saturday in the nearby city of Ulsan.
"Children quivered and cried in panic," the mother of one of the athletes said. "Those sitting near the exit must have been shocked the most."
Another 44-year-old passenger said a door in the middle of the left side of the plane opened with a detonating sound about 10 minutes before landing.
"It was chaos with people close to the door appearing to faint one by one and flight attendants calling out for doctors on board through broadcasting while others were running down the aisle in panic," the passenger said.
"I thought the plane was blowing up. I thought I was going to die like this," he said.