At any costA government committee established to determine the feasibility of the construction of a new airport in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang, is expected to announce its conclusion today. It will most likely lean toward the construction of a new airport on Gadeok Island, Busan. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) increased the budget for commissioning the feasibility review even before the government announces the results of the study.
The DP’s move is certainly aimed at winning more votes in a by-election for a new Busan mayor scheduled for April 7 after former Mayor Oh Keo-don resigned for sexual misconduct earlier this year. It is regrettable that the ruling party is engrossed with winning the election no matter what.
The question of building a new airport in the southeast region to meet increasing air traffic demand in the area was reviewed since the Roh Moo-hyun administration in 2006. After many twists and turns, the conservative Park Geun-hye administration in 2016 decided to expand the existing airport in Gimhae after commissioning a feasibility study from ADP Ingénierie, a French consulting and engineering company. The recommendation of the study was to expand Gimhae Airport, and Gadeok Island was pushed to third place due to heavy reclamation costs needed.
As the Busan mayoral by-election approaches, however, the DP is pushing for a new airport on Gadeok Island. DP Chairman Lee Nak-yon visited Busan last month and promised to press ahead with the construction given the importance of the mayoral election in the second-largest city in Korea. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, an undeclared presidential aspirant, also vowed to “do my best to realize the dream of eight million people in Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang.”
Even the opposition People Power Party (PPP) jumped on the bandwagon. Its interim leader Kim Chong-in pledged to help the government build a new airport on the island when he was asked about the party’s position on the issue.
We do not see a farsighted vision for the country among politicians on either side of the aisle. Their approaches show a critical dearth of principles or procedural legitimacy. All they show are partisan interest. Even Land Minister Kim Hyun-mee admitted the need to “start all over” if building a new airport on the island was deemed inappropriate.
The DP must not forget that the by-election is to be held as a result of sexual misconduct by the former mayor, a member of the ruling party. The DP vowed to not field any candidate for Busan mayor and ate its words. If it is really a responsible party, it must act prudently instead of pursuing an election victory at — literally — any cost.