KOREAN Air will become the first international passenger airline to use Shenzhen Airport later this week when it operates four charter flights between the airport and Seoul over the Lunar New Year period. The history-making flights will be carrying Hongkong holiday-makers and businessmen and were arranged when attempts to get extra charter flights out of Kai Tak failed because of congestion. Shenzhen is not scheduled to start regular international services until April. Korean Air has arranged for a total of about 1,000 Hongkong people - who will travel to Seoul on daily Airbus A-300-600 flights between January 21 and 24 - to be transported to Shenzhen by the hour-long ferry service which started operation from Hongkong last week. The flights will return to Shenzhen from January 25 to 28. The airline's general manager for passenger marketing in the territory, Mr J.Y. Kim, said the flights had nothing to do with the strike by Cathay Pacific flight attendants although Korean Air has assisted the beleaguered airline this week by putting on an extra five flights to Seoul out of Kai Tak. ''The Shenzhen flights had been arranged before Cathay's strike,'' said Mr Kim. ''To cope with the extra holiday traffic over the Lunar New Year we applied for four extra charter flights out of Kai Tak but we were told there were only enough slots available for two.'' The airline replaced its A-300s, which carry 250 passengers, with 400-seater Boeing B-747s, and decided to look to Shenzhen for extra capacity. A Shenzhen Airport representative said Korean Air had applied for eight flights, four of which the State Council in Beijing approved. There was still a chance, he said, that permission could be forthcoming for the remaining four flights. On a number of occasions in the past 12 months, senior government officials from both Hongkong and China have said the time will come when Shenzhen could help to ease the burden at the overcrowded Kai Tak. This is the first time it has picked up an overspill. No air services agreement exists between China and South Korea. Therefore, all flights agreed to have to be charters. Korean Air already flies two charter flights a week between Seoul and Shanghai. The last negotiations over air rights between South Korea and China were held in November but no agreement was reached, Mr Kim said. ''No further talks are scheduled for the moment though we would like to have regular scheduled services to the major cities,'' he added. It is understood that Korean Air first approached Shenzhen about using its facilities last year and had its first serious discussions in December. Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines looks likely to be the next airline to be using Shenzhen for passenger flights. Sources say discussions are well advanced between the two sides. In November Cargolux became the first overseas cargo airline to use Shenzhen.