] Incheon International Airport Corp. said on Feb. 1 it has officially begun accepting bids for duty-free operators hoping to open stores in its second terminal, which is set to open later this year.
The call for bids comes about three months later than initially planned, in the midst of tensions between the airport and the Korea Customs Service about the way in which licenses are granted.
“We could not hold off any longer on the bids. If we do not choose the operators by April, we may face a crisis where the second terminal would have to open without duty-free stores,” an airport official said.
Previously, duty-free operators at airports had been chosen by the airport operators then licensed by the Korea Customs Service so long as they met a set of requirements. However, this year, the customs regulator said it would evaluate and grant licenses for airport operators as well, in a similar process to the licensing procedure for downtown duty-free stores.
The airport and KCS held high-level meetings on Jan. 18 and Jan. 31, but failed to come to an agreement.
Bidding is open for six operating licenses that will cover approximately 10,000 square meters in the new terminal. Three licenses will go to large companies while three will go to small and medium-sized operators. Bids will be accepted through the end of March, with evaluations to be completed in April.
The goal is to open the stores by October, when the terminal will be opened to the public, the corporation said.
Meanwhile, the KCS is taking a staunch stance against the airport’s actions.
“The fact that Incheon Airport put out the announcement without an agreement with the KCS is a grave error,” a spokesman for KCS said.
“Even if duty-free operators are chosen through this bidding process, the KCS has no intention of granting the necessary licenses.”
By Won Ho-jung/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org