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Incheon Airport duty-free bid being opposed

Airlines and the Customs service oppose an Incheon Airport bid to provide duty-free shopping for arriving passengers.

It has submitted a report to Yoon Young-il of the minor opposition People’s Party saying it is considering two duty-free shops for Terminal 1 and another at Terminal 2 so passengers claiming luggage can buy items free of duty such as perfume, cosmetics, liquor and cigarettes.

“Surveys show that 84 per cent of travellers support the idea of arrivals duty-free shops,” says an airport spokesperson. “We have been pushing for it since the airport opened in 2001.”

The airport says it is inconvenient for Korean travellers to have to carry duty-free items they buy while travelling overseas. Also, duty-free shops for arriving passengers reduce the outflow of foreign exchange.

According to Incheon Airport, 132 airports in 71 countries have duty-free shops at their arrivals section.

Among them, 53 are in 27 Asian countries including Hong Kong and Singapore. The Chinese government approved arrival duty-free shops at 19 airports and seaports in February last year while Japan revised its law in April to allow the outlets.

Since 2003, Korean lawmakers have been submitting bills to allow the shops, without success. Duty-free shops in the arrivals section of airports conflict with the law, which categorises sales as exports, which does not apply to arrival outlets.

Korea Customs Service, which issues licenses for duty-free shops, opposes the plan citing concerns over smuggling.

Carriers are also against the idea as they will be losing customers who buy from in-flight duty-free shops, reports The Korea Times. These sales for Asiana Airlines and Korean Air are worth about 330 billion won (US$288 million) annually.

Incheon Airport says it expects to gain 30 billion won in rent from the duty-free shops, with annual sales targeting 100 billion won. It says it will use the profits for social contribution activities.

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