[NOTEBOOK]Clean Up Incheon Problems Now

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[NOTEBOOK]Clean Up Incheon Problems Now

"We do not know what kinds of results the prosecutor's office will announce from the investigation, but Incheon International Airport will suffer from enormous aftereffects because of this incident. There is still a lot to do, and it is embarrassing that this kind of thing happened."

A senior official of the Incheon International Airport Corp. expressed his frustration that way as the controversy over alleged preferential treatment regarding development of unused lands surrounding Incheon International Airport spreads.

The atmosphere at Incheon International Airport seemed rather distracted, unlike the facade of an airport used by more than 70,000 people per day during the summer peak season. Kang Dong-suk, president of the Incheon corporation, and Lee Sang-ho, the former chief of the airport's development project team, were the two persons most responsible for construction of Incheon International Airport. They collided over the controversy, and it is difficult to shake off shameful feelings when the airport appears to be in pandemonium because of corrupt actions.

An employee who is in charge of outside contracts said, "Nobody said anything when accepting bids for trillions of won worth of airport construction projects. I don't know why there is so much noise about the development of the unused lands, which no one used to pay any attention to."

The effects from this incident have already appeared. Now the development of the idle land is uncertain, but this is not the only loss the Incheon airport has to face. Even the second phase of the airport construction project, scheduled next year, has stopped.

The airport corporation is not the only party that is suffering from the issue. Around 40 percent of expenditures for airport construction is government funds, which directly comes from the taxes people have paid. If management of the Incheon airport becomes suspect and the second phase of construction stumbles, the problem is one for us all.

We need to wait and see the results of the investigation; the incident could turn out to have stemmed from "external pressure," as Mr. Lee argued, or the incident could have arisen from simple tensions inside the corporation regarding how to maximize profits, as the corporation president, Mr. Kang argued.

The core of investigation is to reveal whether or not Kook Joong-ho, an official at the Office of Civil Affairs at the Blue House, made phone calls to Mr. Lee, asking favors on behalf of Airport 72, a consortium that lost the bid.

If the investigation does not clarify the reasons why Mr. Lee and Mr. Kang, whom people said were once like father and son, are now plaintiff and defendant, suspicions will remain. Was there outside influence and requests for favors? The investigation should not end up in just making excuses and covering up; it should deal thoroughly with all the suspicions that have been raised. If it is not well done, Incheon International Airport will continue to suffer from the incident. Reform of the management of the airport seems inevitable.

The writer is a reporter for the society page of the JoongAng Ilbo

by Kim Chang-woo

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