Blue House signs 5-year lease on jet

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Blue House signs 5-year lease on jet

South Korea’s presidential office has signed a five-year lease with Korean Air on a Boeing 747-400 jet to be used during overseas trips by President Lee Myung-bak starting next month, presidential office officials said yesterday.

The Blue House has to date alternated between chartered planes from the country’s two flagship carriers - Korean Air and Asiana Airlines - for the president’s travels.

“We decided to lease an aircraft, taking cost reductions into account. Korean Air was selected to provide the airplane through open bidding,” said a Blue House official, requesting anonymity. He refused to reveal details of the contract, including the bidding price.

Air Force plans call for a special organization to oversee the operation of the plane, whose interior will be remodeled, and Korean Air will provide crew members and other services for the time being, he added.

The Presidential Council on Nation Branding is to supervise the exterior design, and the interior will be renovated jointly by the Defense Ministry, the Presidential Security Service and Korean Air.

The presidential plane, dubbed “Code One,” will bear the words “Republic of Korea,” South Korea’s official name, and its national flag, the Taegeukgi. It will also be equipped with a high-tech communication line that would immediately link the president with the Blue House and the military in case of an emergency.

South Korea plans to purchase an up-to-date presidential plane in the latter half of 2014. The National Assembly approved 14.2 billion won ($12 million) in December for the launch of the procurement program after years of debate on its necessity. Related bidding will be open to foreign aircraft makers including Boeing and Airbus. Yonhap

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