The Muan International Airport (무안국제공항, MWX) opened last week (November 8th), but will operate at a fraction of its capacity until at least the middle of next year, according to a Korea Times article. It has replaced* Mokpo Airport, will take over international flights from Gwangju International Airport next June, and is expected to have some 1.8 million passengers in 2008. This newest airport, the third-largest in the country behind Incheon and Gimpo, is slated to have 42 international flights per week and 8 domestic flights per day, but currently only 9 and 7, respectively, are working. Reasons given for the delay are the lack of restaurants and convenience stores, customs and immigration stations, and insufficient transportation from Gwangju to Muan.
The airport was apparently under construction for 8 years, and as I mentioned in an earlier post there are articles that say the airport was supposed to open as early as 2004 (I saw one that said 2003, but I can't find it now). So the current delays are face-slappingly mind-boggling. According to a Korea Times article from November 2, the highway between Gwangju and Muan isn't scheduled to open until June, 2008, and that the KTX may eventually pass through Muan. I don't understand why the transportation issue wasn't the first hammered out, instead of being among the last. All of the issues mentioned in the initial KT article I linked are pretty serious deficiencies, and I guess by "open" it is meant that airplanes are physically able to take off and land.
President Noh was there to help open the airport.
"Muan International Airport will become a new milestone in the development of Gwangju and Jeollanam-do. Together with Incheon International Airport and Gimhae International Airport, it will further elevate Korea's status in the global air
logistics sector," said Roh.
The airport is a large component of the Namak New City project, which will swell the resources and population in Namak-ri, Muan county. Namak became the capital of Jeollanam-do in 2005, replacing Gwangju, and though Samhyang-myeon (삼향면, which contains Namak-ri) had a population of 8,768 in 2001, Namak is expected to have a population of 150,000 when the project is finished in 2019. Besides the airport and the new provincial office, other development thrusts include parks, cultural centers, and of course apartments. No, I haven't had any opportunity to talk to anyone over there about the New City or the airport, but the website does say
When selecting Namak-ri, Samhyang-myeon, Mooan County, Jeonnam as the place of New Provincial Office which, we think, would be the best place to be corresponded with the developing direction of 21st century Jeonnam, andthe function and the status of Jeonnam Provincial Office in the era of Local self-government., make it the turning point to develop Jeonnam, and set up the developing plan to maximize the potentiality of the regional development
so there you go.
I do have a soft spot in my heart for all these grand development initiatives taking place throughout Jeollanam-do. There's also a "Tourism and Leisure City" in Haenam, with hotels, casinos, a theme park, a convention center, and an F-1 racing track. And the Gwangyang FEZ, which I don't understand at all. I guess it's partly because the enthusiasm and activity here contrast with the failed urban renewal programs in downtown Pittsburgh. But, when an entire country is smaller than Pennsylvania, it's easier to develop in a hurry, and eventually poliiticians will make it rain on the neglected corners. And it does make me chuckle a little to note the frequency with which 신도시 gets thrown around.
Anyway, according to the founder of the feast:
"Honam is now experiencing turbulent changes due to the emergence of China, political democratization and because it is overcoming of longstanding isolation. The changes will offer Honam new opportunities for prosperity," said
You can have a look around the airport's official website here, although I don't put much stock in it yet. The English page, for example, redirects to the Gimhae Airport's website, as does the duty-free shopping section. I suspect the airport will have similar amenities as the Gwangju International Airport, which means you'll have plenty of opportunities to buy giant wooden tables and lewd paintings. I get a kick out of these tiny airports, and it made me smile when I drove past the little airport in Sacheon.
* I don't know if Mokpo Airport is closed yet or what. Naver encyclopedia and the Mokpo Airport's official site don't say anything about it.