A panoramic view of the site for a new international airport on Jeju Island / Korea Times file
By Jun Ji-hye
The government has taken a step backward in its plan to build a new international airport on the southern island of Jeju, saying that additional reviews of environment and safety issues are needed before the project can proceed.
This move was a change from the government’s previous position that it would push promptly for the construction of the new airport.
On Friday, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport finalized and announced its five-year plan, which covers this year through 2025, on developing and improving domestic airports.
In that plan, the ministry said, “With regard to the second airport on Jeju Island, we will comprehensively review the environmental factors as well as the aviation safety issues before deciding on the direction of the project.”
In its previous plan, which had covered 2016 through 2020, the ministry had said, “We will promptly push for building the second airport on Jeju, aiming to open it in 2025.”
Comparisons between the two plans show a clear change in the government’s position regarding the new airport.
The ministry first unveiled its plan to build the second airport on the island in November 2015, saying that 5 trillion won ($4.2 billion) would be invested to build the new airport on a 540-square-meter site in the Seongsan region.
But the plan has since been stalled amid strong resistance from local residents and environmental activists.
In February, nine local news outlets commissioned Gallup Korea to survey residents on their views of the second airport project, with the results showing that opponents outnumbered supporters, though the residents of Seongsan were overwhelmingly in favor of the project.
A local civic group has instead called on the ministry to build additional terminals at the existing Jeju International Airport and improve the island’s public transportation.
With regard to another project to build a new airport on Busan’s Gadeok Island, the ministry said the scale of that investment would be finalized after a feasibility study is completed.
This position came as the central and regional governments have held differing views over the costs for the project. The former estimated its costs at 12.8 trillion won to 28.6 trillion won, while the latter said only 7.5 trillion won would be needed.
The feasibility study, which was started in June, is expected to be completed next March.
“We will continue working to promote people’s trust toward the government’s airport policies and minimize any conflicts,” said Joo Jong-whan, the senior ministry official in charge of airport policies.Internet Explorer Channel Network