Monday, September 20, 2010

Chuseok dreams : tunnels between Korea, China, and Japan

I remember, before the construction of the Channel Tunnel between France and England, how images of earlier projects would resurface, including those from Napoleon era (early 1800s), where horse coaches would travel on paved road under the sea, tall brick chimneys reaching for the surface every mile or so to help people and animals breathe... The 50.45 km long "Chunnel" is now a reality, changing forever the face of European transports, London becoming almost a suburb of Paris*.

On this Chuseok day, the Chosun Ilbo mentions* 3 undersea railway projects under investigation between Korea and its neighbors. It's not the first time we hear about them, but things seem to be getting more serious.

The shortest project is 3 times longer than the Chunnel : it would connect Jeju-do with the mainland at Mokpo, putting Jeju only 2:26 hours away from Seoul by KTX. Sounds great but a bit disproportionate : I like Jeju very much, but the island only boasts half a million inhabitants. Even boosting the traffic (already millions of tourists every year) wouldn't make the concept viable.

Linking Korea with Japan makes much more sense, Busan-Fukuoka remaining the most likely axis (1 hour and 222.6 km according to the plan). But the connection should then continue across the archipelago far beyond Kyushu, and I wonder if it could be seismically sustainable.

What to say of the third project, a 341 km / 95 mn link between Incheon and Weihai (Shandong), with an artificial island in the middle ? A very ambitious project, but the shortest way if you put North Korea out of the equation, which is precisely the aim of the game : China would easily control major entry points to the peninsula for people and freight, and make reunification less a necessity.
Seoul Village 2010

* those darn Brits would turn the sentence around - after all, they dared chose Waterloo, the symbol of Napoleon's fall, as their main station for the Eurostar bullet train ! Mercifully, the new St Pancras Station is less an embarrassment for French visitors.

** see "
개통땐 서울~제주 KTX로 2시간 26분… 국토해양부 "타당성 조사중"

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