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June 23, 2005

Korean shipbuilders may build WIG craft
Korean Ministry of Science impression of WIG craft

Are Korean shipbuilders about to get into the aircraft industry? Not quite. But the Korean government has a US $168 million plan develop a large-sized "wing in ground" (WIG) watercraft that can cruise at a maximum speed of 250 kilometers per hour just above water, starting 2006.

WIG vehicles, which look like airplanes, skim 1 to 5 meters above water at a speed of exceeding 200 kilometers per hour

The WIG building plan was endorsed today at a meeting of science-related ministers, presided over by Science-Technology Minister Oh Myung.

"We aim to earn 4.15 trillion won by exporting 83 WIG craft from 2010 through 2019. We expect this scheme to provide Korean shipbuilders with next-generation growth engines," Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries director Yeon Yeong-jin says.

Yeon says shipbuilders, such as Samsung Heavy Industries, Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction and STX, have shown interest in the project.

The Korean government plans to invest $84 billion into a project to build a WIG vehicle with a loading capacity of 100 tons of cargo and hopes to attract a matching investment from private companies.

Russia first tried to develop the WIG vessels in the 1960s for military purposes and other countries followed suit. But the Korean plan is claimed to be the first aimed at developing large size cargo WIG craft.

"Korea will be able to preempt the lucrative future market by commercializing large-sized cargo WIG vessels for the first time in the world," Yeon said.

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