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Plan for Gimpo airport provokes ire of local residents

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An overview of Gimpo International Airport in southwestern Seoul / Courtesy of Korea Airports Corp.

An overview of Gimpo International Airport in southwestern Seoul / Courtesy of Korea Airports Corp.

By Lee Hae-rin

The Seoul Metropolitan Government's plan to add more international flights to Gimpo International Airport is prompting nearby residents to complain about increasing noise pollution and demand compensation.

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon announced Tuesday that the city government will push to enhance the airport's functions as a global business travel hub by requesting the central government to increase its 2,000-kilometer restriction for international flights to 3,000 kilometers as part of the city's plan for the relatively underdeveloped southwestern region.

Developing Gimpo airport has taken a back seat to Incheon International Airport, which the government has preferred nurturing as the nation's global air travel hub since its establishment in 2000.

As a result, the airport only offers air routes servicing a total of seven cities in China, Japan and Taiwan, and an overwhelming 89 percent of the flights in and out of the airport are domestic.

The city government said that easing the regulation should enable the airport to launch additional international routes to larger cities, including Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Singapore, and accelerate Seoul-based international business exchanges.

However, the plan triggered an immediate backlash from nearby residents and the municipality.

Lee, a 30-year-old office worker who lives in Seoul's southwestern Yangcheon District, said the "deafening noise" of takeoffs and landings at the airport is heard every 10 to 15 minutes in her neighborhood.

"It's almost impossible to enjoy peace and silence at home, especially in spring and autumn, when we leave windows open," she said.

According to her district office, 70 percent of the households that make up the government-designated region seeking countermeasures against the airport's noise are Yangcheon District residents who complain of serious physical, psychological and property damage from constant exposure to noise pollution.

In response, Yangcheon District head Lee Ki-jae criticized the city government Wednesday, saying that it "unilaterally announced the plan without consulting with the local municipality and residents," who have been putting up with the airport's noise for decades.

The district office plans to ask the city government and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to come up with a compensation plan as it views increasing the number of flights at the airport will create more noise pollution for its residents.

Meanwhile, the city government also plans to propose changing the airport's name to "Seoul Gimpo International Airport" to increase its brand value.

The name has been misleading foreign visitors into thinking that the airport is far from the capital, Oh said.

An overwhelming 86.9 percent of its area spans Seoul's Gangseo District, while another 8.4 percent belongs to neighboring Incheon and the remaining 4.6 percent is in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province.

Only 0.02 percent of the airport's surface area belongs to the city of Gimpo in Gyeonggi Province.

The airport had kept its original name created in 1958 when the land belonged to Gimpo.

Lee Hae-rin


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