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Gimpo airport relocation pledge emerges as hot issue in local elections

All News 17:14 May 30, 2022

By Kim Na-young

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- A proposal to relocate Seoul's Gimpo International Airport has emerged as one of the hottest issues in the run-up to this week's local elections and parliamentary by-elections as the rival parties traded barbs for days over the issue.

Song Young-gil, the Seoul mayor candidate of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), and Lee Jae-myung, its candidate for a parliamentary seat in the Gyeyang-B district in Incheon, jointly put forward the proposal to move Gimpo aiport into Incheon International Airport and develop the area for housing and businesses.

Much of the capital area's western part is relatively less developed due to construction restrictions stemming from the 7.3 million-square-meter site of Gimpo airport lying across the Gangseo district of Seoul and nearby Incheon.

The ruling People Power Party (PPP) has been pummeling the proposal, saying it is unfeasible and will negatively impact the tourist influx to the southern resort island of Jeju. Currently, Gimpo airport is the main gateway to Jeju.

This photo taken May 24, 2022, shows airplanes at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul. (Yonhap)

This photo taken May 24, 2022, shows airplanes at Gimpo International Airport in western Seoul. (Yonhap)

On Monday, the PPP's candidates for Seoul mayor, and governors of Gyeonggi Province and Jeju held a joint press conference at Gimpo airport, calling upon the DP candidates to withdraw their pledge to relocate the airport.

"The closure of Gimpo airport means a considerable number of travelers to Jeju will disappear," PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok has also said, noting about 51 percent of 37 million users of Gimpo airport were visitors to Jeju in a 2019 tally.

The PPP chief also pointed out there are objections even from within the DP on the matter.

The DP has been drawing a line on the issue over concerns it might negatively affect elections in Jeju and other areas.

"The pledge was devised by our regional candidates, not the central party," the DP's co-interim chief, Yoon Ho-jung, has said.

Lee Jae-myung, who proposed the idea, has insisted his pledge will inflict no harm on Jeju tourism.

"Gimpo airport and Incheon airport are only about 10 minutes apart by high-speed train. It is a wild accusation to say Jeju tourism will be negatively affected when people use Incheon airport instead of Gimpo airport," Lee wrote on his Facebook page.

Lee's campaign spokesman Kim Nam-joon said Incheon airport has "enough capacity to accomodate Gimpo-Jeju air routes," adding the PPP chief is "distorting" the pledge in an attempt to divide the DP internally.

DP's Seoul mayoral candidate Song also promised to connect Seoul and Jeju through KTX bullet train route as part of efforts to stimulate travel to Jeju.

On Wednesday, local elections and parliamentary by-elections will be held to select seven parliamentary members, 17 metropolitan mayors and provincial governors, 226 lower-level council heads, as well as 779 seats in provincial and metropolitan councils, and 2,602 in lower-level local councils.


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