Seoul set to win back air rights over south Jeju sea

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
An airplane is seen flying at Incheon Airport. Yonhap

South Korea, China and Japan have agreed to a new air corridor over the sea south of Jeju Island following safety concerns over the growing air traffic in one of the busiest airspaces in the world, according to the South Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

The new move, which is set to take effect in late March, will give South Korea air traffic control over parts of the airspace previously controlled by air traffic authorities in Japan with dual airways set to be established in the section connecting the two countries.

Seoul and Beijing have also signed an agreement on air traffic control cooperation and will set up a hotline for better communication, the ministry added.

Air traffic in the area, also known as the “Akara corridor”, has grown drastically since it was first established in 1983. The daily average number of flights was 10 in its first year but gradually increased to 580 in 2019, sparking calls to replace the current system to enhance air traffic safety.

Deputy minister for civil aviation Kim Sang-do told The Korea Herald that the agreement would “contribute to both human and material exchanges” between the three countries and said it was a “significant improvement in aviation safety.”

He said: “The shift from the outdated air corridor system created during the Cold War era to a new air route and air traffic control system will significantly improve aviation safety in the Incheon FIR area south of Jeju Island.

“This will allow us to better contribute to international air transport.”

The decision to re-establish the airspace comes after the three countries and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) formed a working group in January 2019 and reached common ground late last month.

The shift was originally set to go into effect in April last year, but follow-up discussions were delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, pushing back the implementation to later this year.

The second phase of the agreement is tentatively scheduled to begin June 17 after Seoul and Beijing establish a new air route for all sections of the corridor through further consultations, the ministry explained.