A preposterous campaign promiseClosing down Gimpo Airport west of Seoul has suddenly become a hot potato during the last stage of campaigning for the June 1 local elections. Lee Jae-myung running for a legislative seat representing Gyeyang district, Incheon, after narrowly losing the presidential election in March has proposed to develop the western capital region by incorporating the functions of the Gimpo Airport into Incheon International Airport off the coast.
Removing the capital airport is an issue that should be discussed with the central government, local government, National Assembly and budget experts. It cannot be a campaign platform by candidates of a district or local government heads.
Lee’s reasoning has been bizarre. In a TV debate, he said aircraft must ready for a vertical takeoff. Some sneered why not build a spaceship terminal upon listening to his argument. Song Young-gil, who had resigned from his legislative seat representing Gyeyang district, to run for Seoul mayor in the local elections claimed that residents of Seoul living in the southern area could use Cheongju Airport, South Chungcheong, and residents of eastern region could use Wonju Airport, Gangwon. Gimpo city remains the favorite gateway for Seoul residents for air transportation across the nation and short-haul flights due to its convenient subway and other public transportation connections. The two politicians’ proposal to connect Jeju Island with KTX express railway under the sea is equally overambitious and extravagant.
The Democratic Party (DP) once considered promising the relocation of Gimpo Airport during the presidential election but shelved the idea as Incheon International Airport cannot accommodate the flight demand for Jeju Island due to the flight limitation from its proximity to North Korea. But Lee and Song floated the idea without any prior discussions with the party. DP candidate for Jeju governor Oh Young-hoon opposed the relocation idea as it could critically damage travel to Jeju.
The two candidates also stoke controversy with misinformation. On Facebook, Lee vowed to motion a bill banning any privatization of power, water, airport and railway public services. Song joined the chorus by saying he would lead the public campaign to oppose privatization of public services. The DP claims that President Yoon Suk-yeol’s chief of staff Kim Dae-ki proposed to sell 30 to 40 percent of the stake in Incheon Airport Corporation to the private sector.
Policies that affect public lives must be presented based on facts. Misinformation could stoke an unnecessary social conflict. The presidential office made it clear that it has not considered privatization of public enterprises. Improvising campaign promises or raising allegations without grounds just because election outlook is bleak must stop.