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[Herald Interview] Opposition candidate promises growth with airport, World Expo in Busan mayor bid

Democratic Party candidate faces uphill battle in southern port city

Byun Seong-wan
Byun Seong-wan
Byun Seong-wan, representing the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea in the Busan mayoral election, faces a steep uphill battle against his rival Park Heong-joon of the People Power Party.

After former Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don of the Democratic Party was found to have sexually harassed female employees of the city government, public sentiment toward the liberal party has turned ice cold in the southern city. Byun admits he is facing a difficult challenge.

Nevertheless, Byun says he is a candidate with experience and an innovative mindset to take Busan to the next level. He pledges to grow the city into a global powerhouse with strong autonomous economic power. Byun says he is ready to prove to Busan citizens that the Democratic Party can make things better.

In an interview with The Korea Herald this month, Byun said he is fixed on a successful bid for hosting the World Expo 2030 in Busan, and ensuring construction for a new airport to be completed by 2029. He emphasizes his experience of serving as Busan’s acting mayor after Oh’s resignation.

“The 2030 World Expo is a means of cultural exchange for peace, harmony and coexistence, and hosting this event in Busan would serve as an opportunity for the city to develop comprehensively,” Byun said.

He added that the new airport must be completed by 2029 in order to provide good transportation conditions for the World Expo.

Byun estimates that hosting the global event will create 500,000 new jobs and generate 43 trillion won ($33.9 billion) for the city’s economy, as close to 50 million visitors from 200 countries are expected. Busan is competing against four other global cities in the bid for hosting the World Expo. The host city will be announced in late 2023.

“It is the historical responsibility of both the ruling and opposition parties to open the Gadeok Airport in 2029 to successfully host the 2030 World Expo in Busan,” he said.

“In order to reduce the Land Ministry’s cost and duration of the project, we need bipartisan cooperation. We need to make the airport highly accessible and create a supportive urban area for it.”

Last year, the National Assembly approved a bill to build the new airport on Gadeok Island, about 26 kilometers southwest of Busan, by 2035. Byun and many others have been pushing to expedite the airport’s construction to complete it by 2029.

Byun said he is ready to construct a high-speed railway network across Busan, as well as set up a comprehensive public transportation network spanning South Gyeongsang Province, Ulsan, South Jeolla Province and North Gyeongsang Province for the new airport to be highly accessible.

“We need accessibility before anything else for the Gadeok Airport to be used efficiently,” he said.

For optimal accessibility for Busan citizens, the candidate said he plans to build a semi-high-speed rail network that would allow people to reach the Gadeok Airport within 29 minutes from Haeundae Station and 19 minutes from Bujeon Station.

Byun added that if he were to become the new mayor, he would pour his efforts into Busan’s bid for the World Expo and the new airport to improve the city’s tourism industry. He plans to create new special tourism districts and uncover new international travel routes for more visitors.

“I aim to establish a clear identity for tourism in Busan and present a direction based on a big data system of clear sampling and predictive modeling,” he said.

“The city will also be supported with new travel routes with around 100 cities across the world that connect to the new Gadeok Airport.”

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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