The Democratic Party of Korea included two billion won in next year’s budget for the evaluation of a new airport in Gadeokdo, Busan on Friday, despite the opposition of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. It was decided during the Park Geun-hye administration that a new airport would be built in Gimhae as an extension to the existing Gimhae International Airport. However, the Moon Jae-in administration created a committee under the Office of the Prime Minister and tasked it with a feasibility study which is still ongoing. Minister Kim Hyun-mi of Land, Infrastructure and Transport argued that it is inappropriate to conduct a study and consider another area in mind, especially considering the study has not yet reached a conclusion but to no avail.
The ministry commissioned ADPi of France to undertake a feasibility study and announced that Gimhae was the optimal city to host a new airport four years ago. If the government wishes to reverse a policy decision, although doing it just because the decision was made by a previous government is a problem in itself, the government should at least wait until study results come out. The ruling party, however, has already assigned a budget for a feasibility study of a new airport in Gadeokdo citing the public opinion. Democratic Party floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon was seen swearing and shouting as he was met with a lukewarm response from ministry staff. The leadership of the People Power Party also supported the ruling party’s decision instead of criticizing it for overturning the decision it had made as the ruling party.
The new airport project has experienced ups and downs for the past 10 years due to politicians of the ruling and opposition parties who are eager to win votes. Former President Lee Myung-bak promised in his election campaign that he would build a new airport but canceled it in 2011 after seeing escalated conflicts between regions. However, the tension rose again after it was brought up by Park Geun-hye and continued until 2016 when it was finally decided that it would be built in Gimhae, which involved a foreign company. And the Moon administration is trying to do it all over again.
Many see it as an attempt to win over voters in Busan and the South Gyeongsang Province for a mayoral election in Busan next year and the next presidential election in 2022. Even the research finding that suggests major national projects have been used for politics for the past 10 years has failed to change their minds. Who knows what would happen if a government changes from one political party to another.