Incheon, Gimpo’s aviation battle
A corner on the third floor near Gimpo Airport’s international terminal is now empty. It used to house a movie theater after global routes moved to Incheon International Airport. But the theater’s lease expired on Oct. 12, and the theater shut down. It has not been determined what facility will replace it.
Some international routes returned to Gimpo in 2003, but there are still a limited number of flights operating short routes of less than 2,000 kilometers (about 1,200 miles) from there. The Korea Airports Corporation (KAC), which manages the airport, wants to expand international routes. It has proposed a plan to remodel the terminal to accommodate the increasing number of international fliers. It has not been approved yet, but the KAC is expelling commercial facilities whose leases are expiring.
The Incheon International Airport Corporation (IIAC) is surprised by Gimpo Airport’s expansion attempts, because if Gimpo has more international services, Incheon’s status as an international air hub will be affected.
A controversial internal memo was disclosed at the National Assembly inspection on Oct. 17. It states that expanding Gimpo Airport’s international services and reducing Incheon’s routes is an act that will benefit Japan’s aviation policy checking on Incheon Airport. Gimpo Airport officials said they are not trying to take away routes from Incheon but want to create point-to-point routes, whose users are not transit passengers.
Aviation experts criticize the enmity between the two public corporations. And the two airports are engaged in a discord while Japan is working hard to reinforce airport competitiveness. After yielding their status as the Northeast Asian hub to Korea, Japan is striking back by drastically expanding Haneda Airport’s international services. Incheon argues that its function as a hub should be strengthened further, while Gimpo wants to add more international routes just like Haneda.
The two airports have their own reasoning and grounds. In the end, the division of functions should be determined on the basis of the nation’s competitiveness, not by each individual airport. Nevertheless, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs is looking on with folded arms. A ministry official who was called to the National Assembly inspection said, “The proposals are reviewed by research contractors.” However, a second report on aviation policy is due early next year. Research project bids are now being accepted for a fifth Airport Development Long-term Comprehensive Plan. In the meantime, the two airports will contend with one other. The government should not remain idle and must do more than contract out research.
The author is a national news writer
of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 23, Page 33
by KIM HAN-BYEOL