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Study casts doubt on airfield project for S. Korean island in East

Korea's decades-old project to build an airfield on an island in the East Sea was thrown into doubt again Saturday as a state-run think tank raised questions about its economic feasibility.

Since the 1980s, South Korea has planned to build a mini-airport that could handle 50-seater aircraft on Ulleung Island, the closest Korean territory to its easternmost islets of Dokdo. A final decision to proceed with the project worth 479.8 billion won ($439 million) has been delayed because of its uncertain business outlook.

In the latest feasibility study, the Korea Development Institute gave the project a grade of 0.7 point, hovering below the benchmark point of one. A grade above one point means the project is economically feasible.

If the airfield is built, 50-seater planes would be able to fly from Seoul to Ulleung Island as early as 2017, cutting the travel time to about two hours from the current seven hours.

However, the mountainous ground of the island is an obstacle to building an economically efficient airport, while future profits remain uncertain as the country has no experience in operating 50-seater planes.

"Building an airport is not just an economic matter, but is also related to issues of equal development and administrative necessity," a government official said, implying South Korea may still push ahead with the project.

The government expects the project to earn a higher grade in an upcoming comprehensive feasibility test results, which would also take administrative factors into account. 

It added that an airport on the island is politically important because of its proximity to the easternmost islets of Dokdo.

Japan, which ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910 to 1945, has repeatedly laid claims to Dokdo, triggering deep resentment among many Koreans. (Yonhap News)

<관련 한글 기사>

울릉공항, '경제성 부족'

1980년부터 수차례 추진돼온 '울릉공항' 건설 사업이 이번에도 경제성이 부족하다는 결론이 나와 실현 가능성을 장담하기 어렵게 됐다.

3일 기획재정부, 국토해양부 등에 따르면 한국개발연구원(KDI)이 올해 진행한
울릉공항 건설을 위한 예비타당성 조사 결과 울릉공항의 경제성분석(BC) 수치가 0.70에 그쳤다.

경제성 수치는 통상 1.0 이상은 나와야 해당 사업이 경제성이 있는 것으로 간주
된다.

아직 종합 분석 결과인 계층분석법(AHP) 수치는 나오지 않았지만 경제성분석 수치가 기대치를 밑돌아 현 정부가 공항 건설 사업 추진에 적지 않은 부담이 따를  것으로 전망되고 있다.
    
현재 같이 추진되고 있는 흑산도공항에 비해 사업비가 4배나 차이가 나는 반면
공항 건설에 따른 수요 증대 등의 효과는 크지 않을 것으로 전망되면서 경제성에서 낮은 점수를 받은 것으로 알려졌다. 흑산도공항은 경제성이 높은 것으로 나와  사업이 무난하게 추진될 전망이다.

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