Korea to reclaim air control in 'Akara corridor' linking Japan, China

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Korea to reclaim air control in 'Akara corridor' linking Japan, China

Korea will implement a proposal by a United Nations aviation agency to reclaim the air control zone over seas to the south of Jeju Island, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said Monday.
 
The agreement, based on the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)'s proposal, will take effect in two stages starting on March 25. 
 
Since 2019, Korea has been in talks with Japan and China to normalize the "Akara corridor," which has raised security concerns since its establishment 37 years ago in 1983. The full length of the corridor is 515 kilometers (320 miles), with 257 kilometers in Korean airspace. However, the entire corridor is currently controlled by Japan and China. 
 
The ICAO is a specialized UN agency that oversees international air navigation and transport to ensure safety in the air. Since 2018, the organization has been in talks with the three neighboring countries to disperse air traffic in the region.
 
During the first stage, Korea will take over Japan’s role of guiding flights in and out of Shanghai. A new aviation control system will be created for the zone that is currently administered by China. 
 
The current arrangements did not allow for direct communication between China and Korea, so Korean authorities had to communicate through Japan, slowing down response times during emergencies. Between Korea and China, there is only a direct communication line between Incheon and Dalian.
 
In the second phase, which is expected to take place in June, a new airway will be formed to diffuse traffic in the region. Since the corridor is part of the direct route between Japan and China, it carries a high risk of accidents. According to the ministry, there was an average of 10 flights per day in the corridor in 1983, but that number rose to 580 in 2019.
 
“When the corridor was created, Korea and China had not formed diplomatic relations, and hence communication between the two countries was impossible,” said Yoo Kyung-soo, the head of aviation safety policy at the ministry. “ICAO’s mediation took this into consideration, and the agreement divided the control responsibility among China, Japan and Korea.”
 
ICAO mediated the 1983 deal, which was formed after the demand for direct travel between China and Japan rose.
 
In 2019, former Land Minister Kim Hyun-mee accused Japan of being “uncooperative” in negotiations on air traffic control after talks were unsuccessful. Tokyo had rejected the idea in multiple working-level talks in 2019 as well as requests for higher-level discussions.
 
BY KIM KAP-SAENG, LEE JEE-YOUNG   [lee.jeeyoung1@joongang.co.kr]
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