[EDITORIALS]Airport follies have to ceaseIt has been two years since Yangyang International Airport first opened, but it handles only one flight a day. This is the reality of an international airport that cost more than 350 billion won ($304 million).
The difficulties of local airports are not limited to Yangyang. Among 16 local airports, only Gimhae and Jeju recorded profits last year. In April 2003, Yecheon Airport was closed down two years after it was completed. Airports in Uljin, Muan and Gimjae are under construction, though.
The difficulties of local airports had been anticipated from the beginning. At Yangyang and Yecheon, it was predictable from the days of construction that the demand for air traffic would be low, because expressways linking nearby cities were being greatly expanded. Despite that, the government pushed ahead the construction and a preposterous situation of closing it down after less than two years of operation.
More outrageous is that even though such absurdities repeat themselves, the government does not try to find the reason why, and nobody takes responsibility. According to research by a consultant of the Construction and Transportation Committee of the National Assembly, the government exaggerated the need for local airport construction. It inflated the predicted demand for air traffic at Uljin and Muan to support the need for an airport.
At Gimjae, the government said, various conveniences and benefits created by the airport were 1.2 times its construction cost, but the Audit and Inspection Board said that the ratio was biased in the wrong direction.
The government must thoroughly investigate the reasons why such absurdities have been repeated and make those concerned accountable. Also, if there was pressure from politicians who wanted to have an airport at their constituencies, that must be clarified and made public. Only then can we prevent the preposterous behavior of politicians who issue empty campaign pledges to get more votes and irresponsible civil servants who waste tax money under pressure from politicians.
The background of failed big national projects must be disclosed, indeed. In the future, when we promote a big national project, the names of civil servants and politicians involved from the planning stage until its completion should be made public so that a waste of money can be prevented.