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SEOUL — Civic groups are at odds with the city of Gunsan over an air show in which airmen at Kunsan Air Base have participated.

According to Yun Chul-soo, spokesman for the Gunsan Civil Movement to Retake U.S. Forces Korea Bases and Facilities, the city plans to spend about 4 billion South Korean won ($2,956,923) on the 2012 show — money his and 24 other civic groups say would be better spent on helping the city through rough economic times.

"You can better use it with helping the poor at this difficult time of the economy rather than throwing it away on playing and eating," Yun said.

Yun described the air show as "merely a display event" that is "eating up our tax money," and he thinks most Gunsan citizens feel the same way.

The group has been sending official letters, holding press briefings and holding monthly gatherings to generate support for canceling the show. City spokeswoman Choi Mi-young, however, argued the show is critical to the development of tourism programs.

"We are very determined to keep pushing our plan," she said. "Our show must go on."

She said the last show, held in October in conjunction with a two-day auto show, drew more than 255,000 tourists at the expense of 280 million Korean won ($207,505). Choi said she had no information detailing how much money the city made from the show.

Civic groups aren’t buying the city’s argument.

"U.S. aircraft creating ear-exploding noises day and night cannot make Gunsan an international tourism city," Yun said. "Gunsan city should stop this ridiculous show immediately and listen to the people."

Pilots and aircraft from the U.S. Air Force participated in the event for the first time this year, according to 8th Fighter Wing spokesman 1st Lt. David Herndon.

Herndon said he’s heard nothing about civic groups taking issue with the show, and that it would be up to the city whether the Air Force would continue participating.

"As long as the city still wants to partner with us, we still want to participate," Herndon said.

Herndon said both the 8th Fighter Wing and the Republic of Korea Air Force’s 38th Fighter Wing used their own money to fund their participation, without dipping into city funds. He added that there was no way to gauge how much the U.S. Air Force spent for its role in the event.


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