The airport decision

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The airport decision

After the government decided to expand Gimhae International Airport instead of finding a site for a new airport in South Gyeongsang, local politicians and citizens are outraged over the action. A newspaper in Daegu, which backed the idea of constructing a new airport in Miryang City, published Wednesday’s edition with the front page blank to demonstrate its disappointment and frustration. Opposition lawmakers Kim Boo-kyum and Kim Young-choon, who represent Daegu and Busan respectively, continued to lambaste the government for “cheating the people” and insist on pushing for the project again.

We understand the discontent and exasperation of local politicians and residents. But if the government builds a new airport in Miyrang or Gadeok Island, it will cost as much as 14 trillion won ($12.1 billion). Expanding the capacity of Gimhae International Airport was an unavoidable choice in consideration of its accessibility and safety. Lawmakers and ordinary citizens in South and North Gyeongsang — home turf of conservative forces — must demonstrate mature citizenship prioritizing national interests over narrow-minded regionalism.

What concerns us is the impact the government decision will have on the presidential election scheduled for December 2017. Because many presidential hopefuls — including Moon Jae-in, Ahn Cheol-soo and Park Won-soon — hail from Busan or South Gyeongsang, we can hardly rule out the possibility that they will make a campaign promise to restart the project to win votes. If they get elected president, they will face the same obstacles as the current government, and as a result end up dragging their feet on the project until their presidential term expires. Why should we foment divisions and waste national energy?

The presidential office should be held accountable for fueling the controversy. A Blue House spokesperson insisted Wednesday that expansion of Gimhae Airport is the same as building a new airport. As the issue was which place was better for a new airport, who can possibly be convinced by the spokesman’s sophistic rhetoric? The spokesman should have apologized for President Park Geun-hye’s backpedaling on a campaign vow to push the project after accepting responsibility for stirring up up regional schisms and wasting the government’s time.

Political circles must help the government make Gimhae Airport a new global hub for air traffic. If they plan glitzy campaign promises to get votes, they will pay the price.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jun. 23, Page 30
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