Plans for offshore international airport given the green light
Gadeok-do International Airport will be the country's first offshore.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, a total of 13.7 trillion won ($11 billion) will be invested in the airport, scheduled to open in 2035.
The airport will cater to international fliers exclusively as domestic flights will be concentrated in the nearby Gimhae Airport.
The basic blueprint on the international airport includes a 3,500-meter (11,483-foot) runway, designed in consideration of the freighter models including B747-400F.
The government projects some 23.4 million passengers will use the airport by 2065 along with some 286,000 tons of cargo.
The ministry said five options were under consideration, including a plan in which the airport would be built entirely on land and plans in which it would be built both on land and offshore.
However, the government decided to go with the offshore option considering that the ones built on land would be too close to areas with a high population density and 24-hour operations would not be feasible.
Other proposals could potentially impede the flights of nearby Gimhae and Jinhae airports.
President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday stressed the importance of fast tracking the development of the new international airport.
“It is meaningful that we decided on the plan and exemption of the preliminary feasibility analysis of the new Gadeok-do airport, which has long been a desire of residents in the southeast,” Moon said. “This was possible because of the government's effort toward a national balanced development, the strong passion of the residents in Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang, and the active cooperation by the National Assembly in legislating a special law [that spearheaded the international airport].”
Moon addressed concerns of increased costs and the longer time it would take to construct the airport, stressing that the Gadeok International Airport is necessary for the South Gyeongsang region and also for Busan and Ulsan to evolve into mega cities.
The Busan city government previously proposed completing the airport by 2030, the year in which it hopes to host the World Expo.
Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Noh Hyeong-ouk said the latest decision on Gadeok International Airport shows the government’s strong determination to construct the international airport.
“We will provide all support in moving forward with the project, with safety as our first priority,” Noh said.
The Gadeok International Airport has long been a topic of controversy, especially as earlier preliminary studies raised questions on the airport’s feasibility.
The issue of building the airport was first raised during the Roh Moo-hyun administration after a plane that was headed toward the nearby Gimhae airport crashed.
However, the project was halted under the Lee Myung-bak administration due to low feasibility.
During the Park Geun-hye administration, the project was redirected to expand the Gimhae airport rather than building a new one.
The issue again resurfaced during the 2017 presidential campaign in which President Moon promised to build the Gadeok airport.
It eventually got a strong push during last year’s Busan mayoral by-election that had both the ruling and opposition party agreeing on passing a special legislation that would allow the fast tracking of the development of the airport.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [email@example.com]