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Saenuri Party carefully eyeing impact of gov't decision on new airport

All News 18:38 June 01, 2016

SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party is carefully watching what impact the government decision to build a new airport in the southeastern part of the country will have on the Gyeongsang region, which has traditionally been the base of its political support, parliamentary observers said Wednesday.

The tension felt by the party comes as the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is set to announce the location of the new airport by the end of this month. Sources said the government will come up with the basic outline in 2018, and break ground as early as 2020.

Daegu, Ulsan and the North Gyeongsang Province support Milyang as the candidate site for the new airport, while Busan, the country's largest sea port and No. 2 city, wants the airport to be built on Gadeok Island, not far from the existing Gimhae International Airport.

Experts said voters from Busan, which has been making efforts to host the new airport for a longer period, and Daegu, a pro-President Park Geun-hye city, are expected to voice complaints towards the ruling party and the government if the other side gets the nod for the airport.

Such a development is particularly worrisome for the ruling camp because voters in the regions have started to express their discontent.

In the April 13 election, the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea grabbed one more seat overall compared to the ruling Saenuri Party in the 300-member unicameral parliament. The opposition also took seven seats in the Busan-South Geyongsang region, marking a very rare gain.

Accordingly, the Saenuri Party has been refraining from being supportive of any candidate region, as its lawmakers are split on which region should get the airport. In contrast, the Minjoo Party has been lending support to Gadeok Island.

Experts added the outcome of the new airport will either way spark conflicts among Saenuri lawmakers in the southeast part of the country.

The presidential office is also taking a wait-and-see approach on the issue.

"The new airport should be built based on what is in the country's best interest," an official from the presidential office said, adding that political factors should not have an effect.

colin@yna.co.kr
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