A sensible decision

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A sensible decision

The hotly contested issue over the selection of location for a new airport in South Gyeongsang has ended after a third-party agency came up with conclusion that the best option is to expand the overloaded Kimhae Airport. The conclusion on Tuesday by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport can be the best choice given all the conflict over whether to choose Miryang city or Gadeok Island, Busan.

The ministry announced the results of a study commissioned to ADPi, a leading French airport design firm, at a press conference yesterday. After a year-long analysis, the company reached conclusion that either Miryang or Gadeok is not an appropriate location for a new airport. Political circles mostly showed a positive response to the conclusion.

After accepting the results of the commissioned study, the government plans to draw a blueprint to expand the Kimhae Airport next year — including construction of a new runway and terminal — to address its chronic overcapacity, as well as expanding roads and railways to meet growing needs for air flights.

A senior engineer from ADPi said it reached the conclusion after fully taking into account the airport location standards suggested by the International Civil Aviation Organization as well as the assessment methods agreed on by five municipal governments in South Gyeongsang.

Politicians must repel populist temptations after looking back on what they did. As they pressed ahead with the infrastructure project purely on political logic, schisms were unavoidable from the outset. The conclusion drawn by the independent company solely based on economic feasibility has laid bare all the loopholes in the project.

It all began with the political circles hastily accepting a plea in 2009 by local residents to have an airport in their region as well. But the project was cancelled in 2011 by the Lee Myung-bak government after a benefit-cost analysis. But after Park Geun-hye made a campaign promise to build the airport as presidential candidate in the 2012 election, the government launched a feasibility test in 2014. Since then, South and North Gyeongsang — home turf of the conservative forces — have spent four years fighting between themselves.

Most of the 14 local airports hurriedly constructed for populist promises still suffer a chronic deficit. The latest episode clearly shows that a top-down decision by a few politicians only leads to national chaos as seen in the four-river restoration project and the construction of government complexes in Sejong city. The ball is in the government’s court. It must do its best to upgrade Kimhae Airport as soon as possible if it wants to pay for the debt it owes to the people.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jun. 22, Page 30
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