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(News Focus) S. Korea's Incheon keeps No. 1 airport title for sixth year
SEOUL, March 21 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean airport has soared as one of the world's main hubs, beating its rivals in Singapore and Hong Kong.

   Incheon International Airport was named as the world's best airport for the sixth straight year, according to the latest survey by Airports Council International, a global airport consultation group.

   The survey released last month placed Singapore Changi Airport in second place, followed by Hong Kong International Airport.

   The achievement prompted China and other countries to seek South Korea's managerial know-how and high-tech aviation equipment in running their airports.

   A steady rise in passengers and cargo has also made Incheon one of the busiest airports in the world, connecting 172 destinations worldwide.

   More than 33.48 million people traveled through the country's main gateway last year, up from 14.5 million in 2001 when the airport opened in Incheon, a port city west of Seoul, according to the Incheon International Airport Corp.

   "Last year, we posted the best-ever performance. This year, we are targeting 35 million passengers as our marketing efforts have bore fruit in recent years," said the corporation's president, Lee Chae-wook.

   He said he expects the corporation's revenue to reach 1.5 trillion won (US$1.3 billion) this year, up 200 billion won from last year.

   Lee said the growth is driven by the airport's improved passenger accessibility and simplified customs clearance, along with passenger-oriented facilities.

  


It takes 16 minutes for a traveler to go through the departure procedure and 12 minutes for arrival, much faster than the 60 minutes and 45 minutes, respectively, recommended by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

   The airport has a shopping center with duty free shops, a spa, private sleeping rooms, a casino, indoor gardens and a museum of Korean culture, providing tourists fun and rest while waiting for long flights.

   These advantages have made it much easier for locals and foreigners to travel from South Korea to airports all over the globe, Lee said.

   "We are regarded as a role model among other airports," Lee said, noting Incheon International Airport has the fastest departure and arrival procedures and high-quality cultural programs.

   The airport has begun exporting its managerial know-how and high-tech aviation equipment to developing countries, creating a new source of income.

   Last year, the South Korean airport corporation signed a deal with China's private aviation group to establish a joint venture to transfer airport operation skills and offer other consulting services to the Hainan Airport Group. The airport corporation said it expects to earn 73 billion won by 2023.

   It vowed to step up efforts to expand overseas projects to make them account for at least 5 percent of its total revenue by 2015.

   "We will accelerate development and overseas business to secure a growth engine and seek better profitability in order to achieve our goal to become the best airport operator in the world," said Lee.

   brk@yna.co.kr
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