And from the WTF File: Gov’t pushing plan to build airport on Ulleungdo

The government is reportedly pushing a plan to build an airport on Ulleungdo.

I’ll say that again—the government is reportedly pushing a plan to build an airport on Ulleungdo.

Capable of handling 50-seat planes, the airport would enable travelers to get from Gimpo to Ulleungdo in just an hour, and more importantly, allow you to get to Dokdo in about two hours.

The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs and the province of Gyeongsangbuk-do are apparently keen on the project. A government official told the Munhwa Ilbo that even if its economic feasibility ain’t great, an airport would be good in terms of policy analysis (read: keeping the Japanese away from Dokdo) and balanced regional development.

The plan is reportedly undergoing a feasibility study. If it passes, the new airport would be begin handling traffic from 2017.

Korean Wikipedia tells us the government has been playing with the idea of building an airport on Ulleungdo for some time. A 1,500m runway would not only be able to handle passenger planes like Bombardier Q300 or the ATR 42, but also turn Ulleungdo into an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” capable of handling P-3Cs, F-5s, T-50s and C-130s… just in case the Japanese got squirrely.

What I haven’t been able to figure out is where the hell you can build an airport on Ulleungdo—the only flat land on the island is at the bottom of a volcanic caldera.

  • Kowiana

    I was under the impression that the residents of the island were always extremely opposed to the idea of an airport being built there. I assume this would still be the case?

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Sounds like another scheme designed to profit construction companies and well-connected land owners.

  • Veritas

    #2
    And I bet the airport will be closed in few years because of economic reasons. Who loses out? The taxpayers.

  • Wedge

    So, how many white elephant airports does it take before they say “enough?”

  • brier

    Korea has proved “Build it, and they will come” has failed ~~ oh once or twice already. Yet they will do it again. I want my taxes back!

  • slim

    Shouldn’t Korea be guarding its western flank better against genuine incursions like fish pirates and whatever else China has up its sleeve?

  • Veritas

    #4,5
    Well, it’s not really something that only happens in Korea. Spain has their beautiful Ciudad Real Central Airport – an airport capable of handling international as well as domestic flights. It closed after only being operated for 3 years (BBC reports that it was planned to fail right from the beginning). Japan has their Ibaraki Airport. It hasn’t closed its doors yet, but it’s floundering.

    Some people seem to believe that just building an airport will magically make people want to come there (the same thing can be said about building train stations, I suppose) but one key question they either fail to ask or ignore is “what for”. The Korea Development Institute already stated that building an airport there was economically feasible. I really can’t see why they’re going ahead with the project.

  • Veritas

    #7
    Correction.
    “The Korea Development Institute already stated that building an airport there was NOT economically feasible.” (back in 2010)

  • http://koreanlanguagenotes.blogspot.com/ gbevers

    Robert Koehler wrote:

    What I haven’t been able to figure out is where the hell you can build an airport on Ulleungdo—the only flat land on the island is at the bottom of volcanic caldera.

    They were talking about this in 2009. You can see HERE where they were thinking about building it.

  • http://vmphotography.com.au hoju_saram

    Comment in moderation…

  • cm

    They should cut the bull shit and announce it as what it really is, an air force base. It’s not a bad ideal, actually. An air and naval forces base there will protect the eastern flanks against those three enemies.

  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    A C-130 might be able to scrape by with a 1000m runway, but it’s fanciful to think P-3Cs could do even with a 1500m runway.

  • cm

    How about the KF-15 Fighters? How long of a runway do they need?

  • frogmouth

    Anyone who has visited Ulleungdo would agree that an airport is not a bad idea. The boat ride is grueling, over two hours I think, and when the seas are heavy it’s a total barf-o-rama.

    Many of Ulleungdo’s residents are business people who have residents and family on the Korean mainland. If the weather is nasty boats can’t land. You could be stranded on Ulleungdo for days, especially in winter.

    The amount of tourists who visit make it economically feasible especially during peak seasons. However they’d have to cut back in the winter.

    By the plan Mr Bevers showed they would contruct the airstrip by dumping a strip of land around Sa-dong area. It looks as though they would also reclaim area around Ulleungdo’s shore. Other than the noise, it doesn’t look like it would affect much of the main island’s beauty. Most of the good stuff is on Ulleungdo’s North and East Sides.

  • Q

    Building airport in Uleungdo make sense for its convenience and military importance. In emergency, civilians might get benefit from the facility. At least it is not like the ridiculous project on submerging Okinotorshima:

    In the picture, A 50 million dollar titanium net hangs over the few precious rocks that “allow” the Japanese to claim 400,000 sq kms of adjacent ocean. Jon Van Dyke, a law professor, has suggested that the situation is similar to the failed British attempt to claim an EEZ around Rockall, an uninhabited granite outcropping in the Atlantic Ocean.

    The UK eventually dropped its claim in the 1990s when other countries objected. Dr. Dyke has further asserted that “It is impossible to make a plausible claim that Okinotori should be able to generate a 200 [nautical]-mile zone…” Not surprisingly, Tadao Kuribayashi, another law professor, disagrees, arguing in part that rocks and reefs differ in composition and structure, and that the intent of the provision was geared toward the former.

    (H/T: 韓國之獨島)

  • brier

    Well, its seems the lefties havent set up camp to (yet) to protest the filling in of the sea as they have on je-ju, or have they?

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani

    I was under the impression that the residents of the island were always extremely opposed to the idea of an airport being built there. I assume this would still be the case?

    The residents there are mostly fisherman/(woman) – and the last time I was there in 2003, there was one small hotel (if you could call it that) and a couple of seafood restaurants.

    Will people really fly there just to eat seafood and go hiking to try to see Dokdo?

  • Seth Gecko

    I think this video needs another look:

    South Korea’s abandoned airports

  • Wedge

    #16: The lefties only get excited when China is the target, not Japan.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Gerry, it literally looks like an aircraft carrier…

  • DLBarch

    gbevers’ link @ 9 is illustrative, and reflects the unexceptional observation that for at least the last two decades, airports throughout Asia have been built on reclaimed land from the sea, not on flat, open spaces.

    Just a reminder…

    DLB

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Well, the obvious question is if there is even enough demand for travel from Ulleungdo to the mainland to support that kind of infrastructure, otherwise it becomes an albatross around the tax payer’s neck.

  • guitard

    I happened to drive by YangYang Airport a few years ago. I approached it via a back road – and there were no signs indicating I was nearing an airport. So I drive up and see this rather large, newish looking structure out in the middle of nowhere . . . and I’m wondering what the hell is it?? I finally figured out it was an airport. There were a few cars in the parking lot . . . but virtually no vehicular or pedestrian traffic. My wife had to use the restroom, so I drove up to the passenger loading area . . . but the whole time we couldn’t really tell if it was open or not. But then we thought . . . how could a relatively new and modern looking airport like this NOT be open in the middle of the day?

    She went in and finally saw a couple of people . . . and asked if the airport was actually open. She found out there were was one incoming and one outgoing flight that day.

    Obviously, in between flights . . . things were pretty dead. Actually, things were probably pretty dead even when there flights were arriving/departing.

    It was borderline bizarre.

  • Lliane

    @6 Don’t worry they planned building an airport on Ieodo

  • slim

    Yangyang Airport was likely predicated on a more sustained inter-Korean opening that was envisioned under the Sunshine Policy.

    If the new mini-Cold War Seoul has opened up against Tokyo continues to deepen, as many US experts now predict, South Korea will probably revert to ever more strident nationalism, and then mandatory “patriotic education” trips to Dokdo for the nation’s schoolchildren would be one way to keep an Ulleungdo airport humming. China does a lot of this kind of thing.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    “If the new mini-Cold War Seoul has opened up against Tokyo continues to deepen, as many US experts now predict, South Korea will probably revert to ever more strident nationalism…”

    slim,

    Honestly, I don’t think so. I believe the two countries have more putting them together than apart, Liancourt Rocks not withstanding. Both are U.S. allies. Both are suspicious of China. Both are suspicious of North Korea. Both are democracies. Both are very strong economic trading partners. The Japanese can’t get enough of Korean K-pop and the Koreans can’t get enough of Japanese electronic and mechanical subcomponents (Japan enjoys a $30B USD trade surplus w/ROK).

  • DLBarch

    BTW, that 불침항모 terminology is an interesting choice (and one I missed on first reading because I initially read 불침 as “untouchable.”)

    In fact, the term “unsinkable aircraft carrier” has been used in different military contexts since at least WWII, first to describe the U.S. Navy’s island-hopping campaign across the south Pacific, then to describe Malta’s strategic position in the Med, then to describe Taiwan’s strategic position vis-a-vis China, and more recently to describe Japan’s position as a bulwark against Soviet adventurism in the Asia-Pacific.

    Why is this important? Well, the 불침항모 nomenclature is used in military and security circles to refer to power projection, not defense. This nuance may be lost on casual readers. It symbolism is not lost on military and security types.

    I do not think it was chosen by accident.

    DLB

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Here is a quotation from someone who was smarter than all of us:

    If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coalmines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is. It would, indeed, be more sensible to build houses and the like; but if there are political and practical difficulties in the way of this, the above would be better than nothing.

  • Veritas

    #14
    Uh, as already stated the KDI already deemed the project “economically unfeasible” back in 2010. Unless there has been a huge change in demographics or something in the past 2 years, I doubt that the economic feasibility of the project has changed that much – or to be frank, it probably still isn’t.

    That said, however, as already mentioned in the original post, economic feasibility (or in this case, the lack thereof) is probably not that important in this case. Why mask the truth. As cm said, they might as well come out and say they are going to build an air force base. If the justification for building the airport is to “prepare for a possible Japanese invasion” (which seems more like a overused excuse than a real threat, but what the hell) at least stating that they’re planning to build an air force base would be more forthcoming.

  • Q

    Veritas wrote:

    “prepare for a possible Japanese invasion” (which seems more like a overused excuse than a real threat

    AP: Link between nuclear weapons and nuclear power is “becoming increasingly clear” says Japan professor.

  • Veritas

    Why not link the actual article instead of excerpts from it, why don’t you:
    http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/07/31/japan-pro-bomb-voices-grow-louder-amid-nuke-debate.html

    Might that be because the original article sounds far more benign that what you’re trying to suggest? Also, it might help if you actually had some content rather than just linking something. At this point I’m not really sure whether you’re capable of doing so though.

  • Q

    Here are more.

    United States Circumvented Laws To Help Japan Accumulate Tons of Plutonium:

    The United States deliberately allowed Japan access to the United States’ most secret nuclear weapons facilities while it transferred tens of billions of dollars worth of American tax paid research that has allowed Japan to amass 70 tons of weapons grade plutonium since the 1980s, a National Security News Service investigation reveals. These activities repeatedly violated U.S. laws regarding controls of sensitive nuclear materials that could be diverted to weapons programs in Japan. The NSNS investigation found that the United States has known about a secret nuclear weapons program in Japan since the 1960s, according to CIA reports.


    Japan to make more plutonium despite big stockpile
    :

    “It’s crazy,” said Princeton University professor Frank von Hippel, a leading authority on nonproliferation issues and a former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology. “There is absolutely no reason to do that.”

  • Maximus2008

    “Will people really fly there just to eat seafood and go hiking to try to see Dokdo?”

    Well, if people are desperate to go to Dokdo to meet seagulls, then the answer to your question is “yes”.

  • Arghaeri

    something in the past 2 years, I doubt that the economic feasibility of the project has changed that much

    Since the main criteria is most likely not economic viability the point is moot.

  • Arghaeri

    You said that too… :-)

  • Arghaeri

    As for demand i’d happily make the trip.
    It something I woukd have happily done before were it not for the cross country trip, boat trip, and on top of that risk being stranded in bad weather.

    Short hop from Gimpo however and chocks away….

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Anyone who has visited Ulleungdo would agree that an airport is not a bad idea.

    I’ve been to Ulleungdo, and I think an airport is a bad idea. There are some places where God clearly never intended an airport. Ulleungdo is one of them.

    The boat ride is grueling, over two hours I think, and when the seas are heavy it’s a total barf-o-rama.

    That’s actually true. The high-speed catamaran on rough seas was a pretty harrowing experience.

  • slim

    WK – ” I believe the two countries have more putting them together than apart, Liancourt Rocks not withstanding. Both are U.S. allies. Both are suspicious of China. Both are suspicious of North Korea. Both are democracies. Both are very strong economic trading partners. The Japanese can’t get enough of Korean K-pop and the Koreans can’t get enough of Japanese electronic and mpoechanical subcomponents (Japan enjoys a $30B USD trade surplus w/ROK).”

    That indeed is the common sense position, but common sense was booted out the window a bit over a month ago, first by Lee Myungbak and then with subsequent actions on both sides. It is looking more and more like LMB’s stunt will contribute to the LDP regaining power in November, possibly led by its most reactionary wing. The Nihon Kaigi should be sending Lee flowers and a thank you note for turning what was an obscure issue in Japan into a rally point for nationalists. LMB has shed so much esteem and legitimacy he is now a joke in key world capitals. If he tries some last ditch summit with Kim Jong-un, we should all hope his plane crashes on the way.

    A Congressional Research Service Korea expert I respect, writing in a private research note last week, said elites in both countries increasingly hold the other country in contempt — Koreans because they believe Japan is no longer relevant to them and Japanese because of all of the geopolitically unwise and bilaterally unhelpful shit Koreans are pulling. Both countries suffer under poor political leadership that doesn’t show any signs of getting better soon. It will take vision and above all courage in Tokyo and Seoul to arrest this downward spiral. I don’t see it in the pipeline.

    I was surprised to learn that K-pop exports to Japan — the biggest external market for that stuff — are worth only about $119 million a year, and that business may well cool after this summer of discontent.

  • Q

    The closest air force airports to Dokdo are located 330km and 157.5km away from Korea and Oki island, Japan, respectively. Japan maintains superiority of air force to Korea. Building an airport in Uleungdo would shorten distance Korean fighters fly to Dokdo and serve better defense of Dokdo, Korea:

    http://news.nate.com/view/20120908n02204

  • Q

    slim, do not blame Korea for the sickening of Japanese politics. Japan has been intentionally stimulating neighbor with history and territorial issues. Japanese government made even Japan-friendly 2Mb turn his back. Political stunts of Noda is nothing but attempts to regain power in the upcoming election. Failing economy and disasters of Japan have already decimated Democratic Party’s popularity and LDP’s rise. Now it’s time to reap what Japan has sown: China sends patrol ships to islands held by Japan.