Incheon Airport opens shop bids

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Incheon Airport opens shop bids

Incheon International Airport Corporation opened bids to select duty-free shop operators for its new passenger terminal 2 on Wednesday, despite its ongoing struggle with Korea Customs Service on who should take the lead role in the screening process.

While Korea Customs Service claimed the bid is invalid without its consent, the airport corporation said time was crucial and pressed on with the bid.

The power struggle erupted as the Korea Customs Service said it should select final duty-free operators to avoid market monopoly and the potential of giving favors to larger operators. The customs organization even revised enforcement ordinance under the customs law to push tighter regulation on market-dominating enterprisers. However, as the revision wasn’t passed through the government, time delays pushed the airport into bigger concerns.

Until now, the airport corporation had the authority to select operators and the customs organization only would confirm the results.

“If we do not select duty-free shop operators by April, we may have to open up our new passenger terminal 2 without any shops in October at worst, which is why we cannot wait any longer,” Incheon Airport said in a statement Wednesday. The airport aims to receive duty-free license applications by the end of March and sign contracts in April so the terminal could open in October.

The two parties have been discussing details regarding the bid for some time but failed to come to a consensus, which led to three-month delays in bids already, according to the airport.

Still, the customs organization maintained the current operator screening system led by the airport is inconsistent with customs law and could result in unfair selection.

Passenger terminal 2 has about 10,000 square meters (2.5 acres) set aside for duty-free shops, which is nearly 60 percent of the space in the existing passenger terminal. Three licenses will go to conglomerates and three to small and midsize enterprises.

Companies are puzzled by the ongoing controversy, but are still preparing for the bid. Among conglomerates, Lotte Duty Free and others including Shilla Duty Free and Shinsegae Duty Free are likely to apply.

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