WorldTies: Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel Project Spotlighted Anew

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Damian J. Anderson

Jan 17, 2003, 10:40:02 AM1/17/03

KoreaTimes National

Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel Project Spotlighted Anew

CHANGWON (Yonhap) _ The possibility of building a tunnel under the sea between
South Korea and Japan has emerged again.

A five-member Japanese delegation paid a visit last month to South Kyongsang Gov.
Kim Hyuk-kyu and briefed the southeastern provincial government on the
neighboring country’s plans for the undersea tunnel.

Led by Daizo Nozawa, a Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) lawmaker in Japan’s House
of Councilors, the delegation reportedly asked the province to play an active
role in linking the two countries by tunnel. It explained the economic benefits
the province could receive if it were constructed.

Nozawa, known as a key figure in Japan’s civil engineering projects for the past
10 years, also toured the province’s Koje region. This had been marked by a
Japanese expert group as the starting point of the contemplated tunnel on the
South Korean side, officials at the regional government said.

There are three routes involving the tunnel’s passage contemplated by the
Society for the Japan-Korea Tunnel Research, a private group set up in 1983 and
financed by the Unification Church of the Rev. Moon Sun-myung.

Two out of the three routes run from Koje to Karatsu in Saga Prefecture,
southwestern Japan, while the remaining route connects Busan, South Korea’s
second-biggest city, to the Japanese city of Karatsu.

All three options call for the tunnel’s passage via the Japanese islands of Iki
and Tsushima located in the middle of the waters between the two neighbors.

The Japanese notion of such a submarine tunnel dates back to 1939, when a
Japanese railroad expert conceived a railway connection between Tokyo and Berlin.

If the submarine tunnel is built, Japanese railroads could be linked to European
cities through an inter-Korean railroad, the Trans-Siberia Railway (TSR) and the
Trans-Chinese Railway (TCR).

Economic benefits generated by the tunnel’s construction are obviously behind
the project. Japanese experts have noted that it normally takes 20 days for
seaborne transport from Japan to Europe but the tunnel, if built, could cut the
time to just two days.

Costs for logistics on the Japan-Europe route will shrink to one fourth of
current shipping costs, they have said.

Other developments involving railroads on the Korean Peninsula also gave further
momentum to the tunnel project.

Last month South and North Korea began clearing land mines inside the
demilitarized zone (DMZ) to reconnect two sets of railways and roads, severed
since the 1950-1953 Korean War, through the heavily fortified DMZ.

The Koreas have agreed that a rail line set to link Seoul to Sinuiju, a border
city in the North, via Pyongyang will be completed by the end of this year. It is
also hoped a road running parallel to the railway will be completed by next

Work on the Tonghae (East Sea) rail line and an adjacent road linking eastern
coastal cities is expected to take about a year.

Leaders of South Korea and Japan also have called for the implementation of the
project on many occasions.

South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said the two countries should review the
construction of the tunnel linking Hokkaido, northern Japan, to Europe as ``a
dream of the future’’ in September 2000 when he held a summit with then-Prime
Minister Yoshiro Mori of Japan. The following month, Mori proposed pushing ahead
with the project at the Seoul summit of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

However, both governments have stopped short of announcing it as a bilateral

Since the 1980s the Japanese research group has been solely engaged in detailed
research and exploration of prospective sites for the tunnel. In 1988 the group
had a Korean firm explore the sea off Koje to examine the geological features in
the region and judged the South Korean side is better for the project than the
Japanese side.

For South Korea, the Ministry of Construction and Transportation commissioned
three research institutes to study the feasibility of the project earlier this

A tunnel across the Korean Straits, with a length of 200 kilometers, would be the
world’s biggest if built.

It will dwarf the 50-kilometer tunnel across the English Channel of Dover between
Britain and France and the 53.9-kilometer Seikan tunnel connecting Japan’s
Honshu and Hokkaido, of which 23.3 km are beneath the sea.

Japanese experts estimate completion of the tunnel will take 15 years and cost
$77 billion.

Some Korean experts take a cautious stance against the project, expressing
worries about the interests of South Korea and Japan colliding, as Japan is
expected to gain the upper hand in the logistics area of the Northeast Asia. This
is feared again to raise the specter of Japan’s expansion of its influence in
the region, they say.

In an interview with the Japanese newswire Kyodo News last month Alexander
Losyukov, the Russian vice foreign minister in charge of Asia-Pacific affairs,
raised the prospect of building the undersea tunnel to link up the railway system
in South Korea and Japan, saying that such a project is ``something for the
distant future, but feasible.’’

입력시간 2002/10/08 17:33

Damian J. Anderson

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