Blue House defers airport, KTX to next government

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Blue House defers airport, KTX to next government

The Blue House, the government and the ruling Saenuri Party have agreed to give up their ambition to sell the government’s stake in Incheon Airport, and surrender that and other major infrastructure decisions to the next government.

In a meeting held Tuesday at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, high ranking officials including Hwang Woo-yea, the Saenuri chairman, Lee Hahn-koo, floor leader of the party, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan and Kim Dae-ki, senior presidential secretary for economic affairs, agreed to hand over large-scale national projects to the next administration. The meeting lasted 150 minutes.

They included the plan to privatize Incheon International Airport and a new KTX line connecting Suseo, southern Seoul, with Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi, which is to be completed by 2015.

“We concluded it’s too difficult to carry forward the airport and KTX projects during the president’s term,” said Kim Young-woo, spokesmen for the ruling Saenuri Party, after the meeting, “as they are large-scale national projects that necessarily take a long time.”

On June 26, the Ministry of Knowledge and Economy submitted a proposal to sell a 49 percent share of the airport, supposedly worth 1.5 trillion won ($1.32 billion), to the 19th National Assembly. The ministry said it was necessary to improve the airport’s competitiveness. The government owns the entire airport.

In March, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs announced a plan to privatize the new KTX line. The budget of the line was estimated at 14 trillion won and about 400 billion won was supposed to be raised privately, according to the ministry.

Both plans drew opposition.

“The government has failed to explain what kinds of benefits the nation would get from the sales,” the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice said in a press release.

Park Geun-hye, presidential front-runner of the Saenuri Party, pressured the administration to give up its plans a day before the meeting.

“There is not enough time to discuss such large projects,” Lee, floor leader of the ruling party, said. “We need to wrap up the discussions we had in the past and hand over the collected opinion to the next administration.”

But officials didn’t discuss other important issues including a project to build 60 next-generation fighter jets, and selling the government’s stake in Woori Finance Holdings. “It is too sensitive to discuss,” a spokesman for the ruling party told reporters regarding the Woori issue.

In January, the government launched the next-generation fighter jet project, code-named FX-III, inviting proposals from international companies to participate. The plan to purchase advanced combat fighters worth 8.3 trillion won ($7.24 billion).

The Air Force said about 250 of Korea’s 460 fighter jets are 30 to 40 years old and must be replaced.

“We should accelerate the project,” a Blue House spokesman said. According to the timetable issued in January, the deadline for bidding was set for mid-June. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration scheduled reviews of the proposals in July. The final decision was to be made in October.

By Ko Jung-ae, Chae Byung-gun []
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