Friday, December 28, 2007

Escape Mokpo by Plane

Usually escaping from Mokpo by plane involves an escape by bus to Incheon Airport. But Mokpo is large enough to warrant its own airport, aptly named Mokpo Airport (목포 공항 aka Mokpo Kong Hang). For the curious, Korea is small enough that airports are easily recognised by their name or host city so most Koreans (including taxi drivers) don't bother with 국제 (aka Guk Chay) and 국내 (aka Guk Neah), the respective international and domestic prefixes for 공항 (aka Kong Hang), the Korean word for airport. Mokpo's airport is a domestic one but unfortunately closed to the public.

From the official website we have this history:

Mokpo airport is located 22km far from Mokpo City Hall to the southeast. It was constructed in 1969 and opened Mokpo~Seoul line by korean Air on July 1992 and Asiana Airlines on December 1992. Korean Air placed Mokpo~Jeju line into service in 1993, and Mokpo~Busan line on October 1994. But it was stopped on October 15, 2001. Since April 2003, there has been only 2 flights in Mokpo~Seoul line of Asiana Airlines. Mokpo Airport has been operated in affection of local residents for the time being, but it would be faded away to history when Muan International Airport, which is being constructed as alternative airport considering of the increasing demands, starts the operation.
Yes, the closest way to escape by plane is now through Muan Airport (무안공항 aka Muan Kong Hang) that just opened November 8th of 2007. The airport itself is scheduled to be the 3rd largest in Korea once it starts to operate at full capacity:
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.
Brian may sound a bit harsh, but Muan is on par with South Korea's reputation for mismanaged airport projects:
The "zany airport" in the report is Uljin Airport in North Gyeongsang Province, which has not yet opened. Uljin Airport was originally scheduled to open in 2003 but operations have been delayed since no airlines want to fly there, as AFP correctly reported. The airlines know that very few passengers would want to fly there.

Uljin Airport isn't the only local airport in Korea that can't attract airlines. Daegu Airport has had no flights since November when airlines decided not to fly there. Yangyang Airport in Gangwon Province handled an average of just 66 passengers per day in July, the peak summer vacation season. That's fewer than the number of people employed to run the place -- 82. Muan International Airport in South Jeolla Province, which opened in November, averages just one domestic and one international flight per day.
As for the Mokpo airport some Mokponians around here are telling me that it has already faded away to history and that it is (or will be, depending on the eventuality of Muan) a private airport used by the military.

No comments: