The report says 11 of Korea's 14 airports are operating at a deficit. In a country the size of Korea---smaller than Pennsylvania but with four times the population---I am surprised by the number of airports, and that new ones are being bulit to replace old ones. There are airports planned for Miryang and for Busan's Gadeok-do island, though I can't tell if it's an either-or situation, as a new airport there would serve southeastern Korea. There is also a domestic airport supposed to open in 2009 in Uljin county in Gyeongsangbuk-do; it was supposed to open in 2003, actually, but apparently nobody wants to fly there.
The one in Yangyang, Gangwon-do, is there for tourists looking to hike and ski, and replaced the one in Sokcho and, correct me if I'm wrong, Gangneung. There's also a domestic airport in the city of Wonju, Gangwon-do. Somebody wrote on Dave's:
They built this airport anticipating mass tourism in Gangwon-do, but it never materialized. While Koreans come out to Gangwon-do, it's only a 3 to 4 hour drive from Seoul and then you need the car to get around so flying to Gangwon-do makes little sense. I understand Yangyang airport used to operate flights to Tokyo, Jeju, Seoul, and Busan which would be extremely convenient for those of us teaching in Gangwon-do, but too few foreigners travel Gangwon-do to adequately support daily flights.
The airport is also there, I guess, to assist Pyeongchang county's perennial Winter Olympics bid. In case it doesn't reopen, or become privatized as the report suggested, a few months ago Brian in Gangwon-do was thinking of creative uses for that space.
There was a new international airport that opened in Jeollanam-do in 2007, Muan International Airport. Built to replace the airports in Gwangju and Mokpo, it, too, was full of face-palm moments. It was under construction for eight years, delayed for four, and when it opened it only opened in quotation marks. The highway between Gwangju and Muan didn't open until the following year, meaning people couldn't get to the new airport, which was built as part of the Namak New City plan to relocate the provincial capital from Gwangju to Namak-ri in Muan county. A lot of flights were still handled by Gwangju, which still flies to Jeju and Seoul. A Korea Times article from November, 2007, has more about Muan's "incomplete opening":
``Muan airport will lead development in Gwangju and South Jeolla Province. It will also improve the nation's air logistics together with Incheon and Gimhae airports,'' President Roh Moo-hyun said at the opening ceremony of the airport.
All international flights that operated at Gwangju International Airport near Muan were supposed to operate from Muan, and Mokpo Airport was to be closed with domestic flights there being moved to Muan.
The ministry expected to run 42 international flights per week on six routes by five airlines and eight daily domestic flights on two routes once the airport opened.
However, for the time being only nine international flights per week by two Chinese carriers and seven domestic flights will operate, as the two national flag carriers _ Korean Air and Asiana Airlines _ decided to keep their operation of four weekly flights to China at Gwangju airport until next June.
The decision was made due to the ministry's inconsistent policy. The construction of a highway connecting Gwangju and Muan has not been completed and thus the difficulty in accessing the airport was evident, consequently the government allowed international operation at Gwangju airport until the end of constructions in June.
With only half of the international flights operating in Muan and the other half at Gwangju, customs and immigration facilities and cargo terminals at Muan are also unlikely to be fully operational. Moreover, the airport lacks restaurants and convenience stores as no companies have applied to do business there due to the small number of flight operations.
Suncheon is served, I guess, by Yeosu Airport, and there are shuttle buses to it throughout the day. I read an article that said Yeosu might temporarily serve as an international airport when the 2012 Expo comes to town. Gwangju is only about an hour away by bus, and there's a subway stop for the airport there, so that's just as convenient I guess, and in my opinion it makes sense for the region's largest city to maintain its own airport. However, because I often have another 24 to 36 hours of travel time between Korea and Pittsburgh, I'm happy to take buses while I'm here. They're certainly more roomy than economy class seats, and I find it much easier to take a bus to Incheon airport than mess around with domestic flights. One year my school told me I had to fly the whole way home, so I took a bus from Gangjin to Gwangju, flew from Gwangju to Gimpo, took a bus to Incheon, stayed the night in Incheon, and flew out in the morning. When you add up the transfers, the check-ins, and the waiting, to say nothing of trying to carry luggage all over the place, it ended up being about 256-times more irritating than simply taking a bus all the way to Incheon. Business travellers may have a different perspective, but I'm happy living only a short nap away from Seoul.