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S. Korea scraps plan to build new int'l airport

All Headlines 16:04 March 30, 2011

SEOUL, March 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea decided Wednesday to scrap its plan to build a new international airport in the nation's southeast region as two candidate sites failed to meet requirements for economic and environmental feasibility.

A total of 35 candidate sites had been reviewed but whittled down to two -- Miryang, a city 386 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and Gadeok Island close to the country's largest port city of Busan.

"In three categories, Miryang received a combined 39.9 points and Gadeok Island 38.8 points. We decided the two candidates were not suitable (for the airport) as they have geographic disadvantages that could possibly cause excessive costs and an impact on the environment," said Park Chang-ho, head of the government's evaluation team for the new international airport.

A committee comprised of about 30 policymakers and civilian experts launched its final review of the two candidate sites last week. The review was mainly focused on the airport's economic feasibility and effect on the environment.

Building an airport on the man-made Gadeok Island is feared to cause safety problems due to allegedly overlapping air routes with military aircraft. Some others claim that it lacks accessibility as the site is far away from major cities in the region. Construction in Miryang would require cutting into mountains to make way for runways and airport terminals.

The decision is expected to draw a strong outcry from political, civic and municipal government officials who have long sought to host what they believe could serve as an another major gateway to the nation and give an economic boost to their hometowns.

The multi-billion-dollar project was first proposed in 2006 by the Roh Moo-hyun government to build an airport in the southeastern province that includes South and North Gyeongsang Provinces. Under the plan, Korea would construct a 6.6 million square meter airport in the region at a cost of 10 trillion won (US$8.9 billion) by 2025.

President Lee Myung-bak promised to go ahead with its construction during his campaign, saying that it would boost the regional economy of the region, home to 13 million people and the stronghold for the ruling Grand National Party.

Controversy, however, had been flaring up over where the airport should be located as many municipal governments and lawmakers in related constituencies fiercely competed to attract the facility to their hometowns.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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