A plan that doesn’t flyThe ruling Democratic Party (DP) is bulldozing through its plan to build a new airport on Gadeok Island in Busan after a review committee under the Prime Minister’s Office scrapped the original decision to expand the current Gimhae Airport in South Gyeongsang. The DP plans to introduce a special act for a new Gadeok airport this month to fast-track construction after skipping a feasibility study.
The review committee only studied the feasibility of an expansion of Gimhae Airport, which was the preferred course of action chosen by the previous Park Geun-hye administration. The option of building a new airport on Gadeok was considered at the time. The DP is pressing ahead with the Gadeok alternative as if it has received permission from the government. In a government-led review four years ago, Gadeok Island ranked third in three shortlisted choices for a new international airport in the southern area after Gimhae and Miryang in South Gyeongsang. A massive reclamation cost was its biggest disadvantage.
Gaedok also scored poorly on safety, the environment, maintenance and traffic demand. Above all, it is most vulnerable to natural hazards as the island is the first to be hit by seasonal typhoons. The review committee had concluded that building more runways at Gimhae Airport to meet future demand was impossible. But in Gadeok’s case, it’s even worse, according to the last evaluation by French consulting and engineering company ADP International Engineering.
The latest government review is disputable. Members of the committee complained they were exploited by the government. They claim that their work did not matter since the government already intended to overturn the previous plan. One member said they concluded that it would be better to expand Gimhae than build a new airport.
But the DP is determined to see through the Gadeok project. It is abusing its dominant position in the National Assembly to rubber-stamp a highly controversial and costly project. The motive is certainly winning the Busan mayoral by-election next April. The ruling party is out to save its mayoral seat in the second largest city, which is vacant due to sexual misconduct by a former mayor, through a costly pork-barrel project.
Since insiders have raised questions, the review of the Gimhae expansion requires an objective outside evaluation. Only objective comparative studies can justify such an important choice. If the Gadeok Airport is pushed solely to win an election, our state coffers already laden with a yawning deficit will certainly get worse.