On the afternoon of Feb. 2, cold winds swept into the passenger terminal of Yangyang International Airport in Gangwon Province, where not a single passenger could be seen. In fact, the airport has been deserted for the 99 days since the arrival of its last chartered flight, a Korean Air carrier returning from Japan, on Nov. 1.
Yangyang Airport was granted a budget of W356.7 billion (US$1=W1,378) in April 2002 with a view to establishing itself as a tourism hub in the eastern Gangwon region.
But due to decreasing numbers of passengers, the airport posted deficits of more than W10 billion for three consecutive years -- W12.9 billion in 2006, W10.6 billion in 2007, and W10.1 billion in 2008. Some blamed incompetent planning and administration, which failed to consider potential environmental changes, including the expansion of nearby expressways. In 2008, a daily average of 26 passengers used the airport. In contrast, up to 146 airport staff were there to service them.
Yangyang Airport is not the only Korean "ghost airport." Construction has been suspended at both Uljin Airport in North Gyeongsang Province and Gimje Airport in North Jeolla Province. Indeed, Uljin Airport was selected by international news agency AFP as one of its "Seriously strange: zany stories of 2007" for the fact that, "A town in South Korea which spent some US$140 million to build its own airport was then forced to admit that no airlines actually wanted to fly there."
When Uljin Airport was 85 percent complete, construction was suspended in 2005 after the Board of Audit and Inspection decided to re-evaluate the project.