Although the number of Chinese tourists who visit Jeju Island is skyrocketing, Chinese airlines dominate more than 80 percent of air flights from Jeju to China, according to recent data. This is because foreign airlines can freely put in a new plane to Jeju Island, but Korean airlines need to have consultations first with the relevant countries. The government’s active efforts to attract more tourists is creating unfair conditions for domestic airlines.
Park Soo-hyun of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) from The Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee under the National Assembly said on Sept. 14, “After conducting inspections on the Korea Airports Corporation, we figured out that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Jeju Island has grown sharply, but Chinese airlines are taking the benefits from it. We need to get rid of the unfair structure after holding aviation talks with China immediately.”
According to the data from Park, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Jeju in the first half of this year stood at 1.16 million, despite the MERS outbreak. The figure increased by 60,000 from 1.1 million in the same period last year. The number of flights from Jeju to China also increased from 8,555 in 2013 to 12,894 last year. As the figure reached 7,444 from Jan. to the end of Aug. this year, it maintains a similar level to the same period last year, despite the MERS scare.
Out of a total number of 12,894 flights from Jeju to China last year, however, Korean airlines had only 2,621 flights, or 20 percent. Although the rapid increase in the number of Chinese tourists has led to the growth of airline demands, Chinese airlines are the ones that reap benefits.
This is largely due to the fact that the government has allowed foreign airlines to freely fly to the island in Jeju Airport after the Asian financial crisis in 1998, in a bid to vitalize tourism in Jeju.
Park urged the government to have meetings with China as soon as possible to address inequality, saying, “The share of Chinese airlines in flights from Jeju to China has continuously increased from 56.2 percent in 2013 to 79.1 percent in 2014 and to 83.5 percent as of the end of Aug. this year. However, the government is incompetent in its response.”