Turbulence expected if new hub airport scrapped

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Turbulence expected if new hub airport scrapped

As the Lee Myung-bak administration mulls abandoning an expensive plan to build a new international airport in the country’s southeastern region and instead expand capacity at Gimhae International Airport, the idea met bitter opposition from mayors and residents of cities in the Gyeongsang provinces bidding for the project.

Their fury comes after media reported on Sunday that the government was looking into the possibility of scrapping the project on economic grounds.

“I’m aware that the evaluation committee for a new southeastern international hub airport will announce that both Miryang and Gadeok Island are not suitable for the project,” a senior-ranking official of the ruling Grand National Party told the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday.

The GNP official said that rather than building a new airport, renovating Gimhae International Airport in Busan would save 6 trillion won ($5.4 billion).

Currently, Gimhae is a civil and military airport. Thirty percent of its facilities are used by the military.

The GNP official said the government is examining relocating the military from Gimhae to other military airports in the Gyeongsang region, leaving space to expand Gimhae’s cargo and passenger capacities.

The 10 trillion won project to build a new international airport in the southeastern part of the country had prompted ferocious competition between two major cities in the Gyeongsang area.

Busan, the nation’s largest port city, wants the airport to be built on its adjacent Gadeok Island.

Daegu wants it built in Miryang in South Gyeongsang, which is about 30 miles south of Daegu and closer than Gadeok Island.

While the final decision will be announced by the evaluation committee tomorrow, news reports infuriated people in “Yeongnam,” a Korean term referring to North and South Gyeongsang. Yeongnam is a traditional stronghold of the ruling GNP.

Daegu Mayor Kim Bum-il said aborting the project will do little to help balance regional development in Korea, one of the project’s original purposes.

“If the news reports are true, the fate of the new international airport is already decided even before the evaluation committee makes its announcement,” Kim said in a press conference yesterday.

Kim said his aides suggested he boycott an evaluation committee inspection today, but he decided to be patient.

North Gyeongsang Gov. Kim Kwan-yong warned, “The Lee administration will face fierce opposition and fury from the region if the project is aborted.”

Kim continued, “As we’ve witnessed with Japan’s earthquake, we need two international hub airports. To prepare for potential natural disasters and national emergencies, we need a second international hub airport in addition to Incheon International Airport.”

Busan is also furious about the possibility of the project being aborted.

The Busan Metropolitan City government said it won’t accept the evaluation committee’s idea of scrapping the project or expanding Gimhae.

“Currently, the military also uses Gimhae International Airport, and there many problems with the airport including noise issues,” Kang Hee-cheon, a Busan Metropolitan City official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday. “Expanding Gimhae is not efficient.”

“The government formed an evaluation committee to inspect Gadeok Island and Miryang even though scrapping the project was a foregone conclusion,” said Park In-ho of a civic group that supports building a new airport on Gadeok Island. “Miryang and Gadeok residents have been hoodwinked.”

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

Related Korean Article[중앙일보]
“공항보다 기업이 대구·경북에 도움”… 이 대통령 ‘신공항 백지화’ 대비 언급

김해공항 확장 때 TK엔 …
① 과학벨트 일부 분야 이전
② 대구 첨복단지 땅값 인하
③ KTX 인천공항 조기 개통

동남권 신공항 입지평가 발표가 30일로 예정된 가운데 이명박 대통령이 최근 “대구·경북(TK)에 공항보다 기업이 가는 게 더 좋지 않겠느냐”는 취지의 말을 했다고 여권 고위 관계자가 28일 전했다. 이 관계자는 “평가가 진행 중이라곤 하지만 대구·경북에서 미는 밀양이나, 부산·경남(PK)에서 지지하는 가덕도 모두 경제성이 떨어진다는 평가가 나올 가능성이 있다”며 “이런 경우에 대비하는 차원에서 TK의 기업 유치론을 이 대통령이 얘기한 게 아닌가 싶다”고 말했다.

 신공항 문제와 관련해 정부와 청와대에선 밀양과 가덕도 모두 공항 입지로 적합하지 않다는 평가 결과가 나올 가능성이 크다고 보고 대응책을 검토하고 있다. 정부의 한 고위 관계자는 “밀양과 가덕도가 모두 탈락할 경우 현실적으론 김해공항 확장밖에 대안이 없다”며 “이 경우 PK 민심은 어느 정도 진정될지 모르나 TK에선 수긍할 수 없다는 여론이 확산될 것이므로 TK 대책이 필요하다”고 말했다. 그러면서 “TK엔 세 가지 정도의 혜택을 주는 방안을 실무적으로 검토하고 있다”고 밝혔다.

 이 관계자에 따르면 청와대와 정부는 과학비즈니스벨트(과학벨트) 일부를 대구·경북 지역에 두는 방안을 검토하고 있다. TK엔 연구중심 대학인 포스텍(포항공대)이 있는 만큼 연구와 관련 있는 시설을 TK로 보내는 방안이 타당한지 논의하고 있다 한다.

대구 신서동에 들어설 첨단의료복합단지(103만㎡)에 대한 지원책도 거론되고 있다. 같은 기능을 가진 충북 오송단지(113만㎡)의 경우 3.3㎡당 분양가는 50만원 선인 반면 대구 단지는 236만원으로 비싸기 때문에 기업 유치 조건에서 불리하다. 그런 대구 단지의 분양가를 정부 지원을 통해 3.3㎡당 150만원 정도로 낮춰 달라는 대구의 요구를 어느 정도 수용할지 검토되고 있다고 한다.

대구·경북 주민들이 인천공항에 좀 더 빨리 접근할 수 있도록 용산역·서울역~인천공항 구간에서 고속철도(KTX)를 조기 개통하는 방안도 논의되고 있다.

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