A site for the new airport in Seongsan, Seogwipo City, Jeju [Photo by Yonhap]
The project to build a new airport on Jeju Island has been approved by South Korea’s Ministry of Environment on Monday, years after the site was selected in 2015.
The Environment Ministry gave a “conditional approval” for the project to build a second airport on Jeju Island, a popular holiday destination in Korea, after a strategic environmental impact assessment.
Among the three conditions are that the residents near the site are given sufficient information in the upcoming process of assessing environmental impact by the Jeju provincial government and issues raised by them are reviewed and also plans to prevent bird collisions and protect bird habitats are included in the assessment. There is also the condition that measures for reducing aviation noises are prepared and a further precise study should be conducted on legally protected species.
“There may be a concern over environmental conservation value, but it is not so great as to stop the project,” said Lee Chang-gyu, director for environmental impact assessment at the ministry.
The new airport on Jeju Island will have a runway in Seongsan, Seogwipo City, in Jeju. It will be the second airport in addition to the Jeju International Airport in Jeju City. The idea was raised as the existing airport became saturated.
The project to build a second airport was also part of an election pledge of President Yoon Suk-yeol and is included as one of the administrative tasks.
Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) Won Hee-ryong had also insisted on the need for the construction when he was governor of Jeju.
The land ministry, in the meantime, will establish a basic plan to build the new airport, which will include a timeline for future steps such as land compensation. It is expected to take several months for the ministry to issue a notice. The provincial government of Jeju will then carry out an environmental impact evaluation for approval by the Jeju Special Self-Governing Provincial Council.
Environmental concerns, however, still remain.
Critics note that the move goes against the global focus on environmentally-friendly policies and environment, social, and governance (ESG).
“We cannot agree with the environment ministry’s political decision,” Jeju citizens said in a statement. “The ministry’s decision destroys its reason for existence, which is to preserve the national environment.”
By Hong Hae-jin, Song Eun-bum, and Choi Jieun
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