South Korea signed a five-year contract with Korean Air Lines Co. on Friday to lease a Boeing 747-8i jet as the next presidential plane, the defense ministry said.
Under the 300 billion won ($242.3 million) deal, the country's No. 1 air carrier will provide pilots, crew members, mechanics, as well as a back-up plane of the same type for the president's overseas trips, according to the ministry.
The plane will enter service in November next year after going through remodeling work and necessary inspection, it said.
The lease period for the current presidential jet, B747-400, was originally planned to expire in March after a five-year operation, but has been extended until October next year as the government failed to find a new contractor in time.
After three failed bids, Korean Air won the contract as a solo bidder, the ministry said.
The contract amount is nearly double the 141 billion won South Korea paid for the previous five-year deal for the B747-400.
Of the total contract amount, three-fifths are for maintenance services, while the price of the plane itself accounts for one-third of the sum, officials said.
The new plane will be equipped with various security and communication devices, as well as hardware to improve its defense against outside attacks, such as missiles.
"The defense ministry will do its best to thoroughly manage the business to make sure key government figures can stably carry out their duties," it said in a release.
There had been speculation that the government was pushing to purchase an aircraft.
A ministry official said while a purchase option is not currently on the table, the government can consider buying one when circumstances are met.
"Purchasing a presidential plane is an issue that can surely be considered, given our national status. Though we are not looking into it right now, when there is a change in circumstances, such as the available budget, I do think that we need to review a purchase," he said. (Yonhap)