Peace Road monthly magazine

South Korea should also form a “Korea-Japan Tunnel Promotion Committee”

22nd Peace Road Forum Special Lecture

South Korea should also form a “Korea-Japan Tunnel Promotion Committee”


Hiroshi Mizohata, former head of the Japan Tourism Agency, makes a strong statement



Hiroshi Mizohata, former Director General of the Japan Tourism Agency, will give a special lecture at the JS Marriott Hotel in Banpo-dong, Seoul.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit us. Today was my 89th visit to Korea. My most trusted and respected friend, Hwang Bo Kang (Director of Technical Education Office of the Korean Football Association), is also here. Hwangbo Kang and I met in Seoul in 1995 and worked together on the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup and the founding of Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University.

They worked together until they won a soccer tournament in Oita Prefecture, Japan, building a brother-in-law relationship between Korea and Japan. I have worked closely with the Korean people and received their support, so I am always grateful and respectful to them. I like patriotic songs, so I'm going to sing a patriotic song first and then start talking. (It was a little slow, but he sang the first part of the patriotic song until the end)


Japan-Korea tunnel is Korea's biggest business

I was born in Kyoto. After graduating from the University of Tokyo, I joined the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and began working as a civil servant with the desire to contribute to Japan's development. When I was at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, I introduced indirect taxes with good results. I also went to Europe for a short time. Now, my new goal in life is to help the three Northeast Asian countries of Korea, China, and Japan achieve mutual peace and prosperity through close interaction.


I would like to talk about the importance of the Japan-Korea tunnel. When I went to Hokkaido after receiving the order, the Seikan Tunnel was opened between Hokkaido and Aomori. As they are in the position of deciding how to draw the border between Hokkaido and Aomori, local governments on both sides have become extremely sensitive about how taxes should be levied. There was a conflict of opinion as the length of the boundary line was related to taxes. There was a heated argument for four months, but after that the attitude changed to mutual respect. Plans for exchange between Hokkaido and Aomori were widely discussed, the Shinkansen connecting the two regions was opened, and the Seikan Tunnel became the main artery for both. At that time, I realized how much the opening of an undersea tunnel would contribute to regional exchanges.


After that, when I went to Oita Prefecture, the idea of ​​connecting Oita Prefecture and Ehime Prefecture came up, and I was in charge of this as well. The project was to connect Kyushu and Shikoku with a bridge, but sports, culture, and economic exchange also followed. At that time, what I felt most strongly was the need to connect Kyushu and South Korea. That feeling became even stronger when I went to Oita.

As the person in charge of Oita Prefecture regarding the joint hosting of the 2002 Japan-Korea World Cup, I had to think of ways to utilize the tournament. At that time, Korea and Japan were in a competitive relationship. I thought about starting a professional soccer team in Oita Prefecture, and thought that if we built a soccer field and attracted 30,000 tourists from South Korea, the economy would be revitalized. If the Japan-Korea Tunnel opens, exchanges between Japan and South Korea will become more active and it will be easier to attract Korean tourists.


Before discussing the Japan-Korea tunnel further, I would like to tell you a little about my Korean friend, Hwangbo Kang. Prior to the Japan-Korea World Cup, we renovated an empty baseball field to create a soccer field and met with various people to negotiate. My daily routine was to meet with the people involved from early in the morning until late at night. A person must have big dreams.

And don't give up on that dream. Leaders in particular have to work a hundred times harder than others to make their dreams come true. I went to work thinking that I could climb to the top of Japan no matter what. At that time, I met Moon Jung-sik, vice president of the Korean Football Association, and received a lot of support.


I have loved soccer since I was young. Since I was in Europe, I supported European soccer teams and often went to watch soccer matches. I still vividly remember that in 1976, a Japan-Korea soccer match was held at the National Stadium, and Japan lost 3-0. There are some tall players in Korea, so I didn't think Japan would be able to beat Korea in terms of skill. At that time, Korean soccer left a deep impression on me.


Therefore, when forming a soccer team in Oita Prefecture, we visited South Korea, which is closer to Japan than teams from Brazil or the Netherlands, and asked for their cooperation. At that time, Korea and Japan were becoming increasingly competitive with the World Cup just around the corner. I think that even if Japan loses in the World Cup, we should not get too attached to the feelings between Korea and Japan, because the day may come when we can cooperate with each other. That's why we decided to establish a soccer team with the cooperation of the Korean Football Association.


I would like to thank Vice Chairman Moon Jung-sik for all his help. When I went to my parents' home in Italy and turned on the TV, Spain and South Korea were playing against each other. At that time, there was a Korean player who was active on the field and scored some great goals. He is right here, Fang Bo Kang.

In the 1990s, Japan was always eliminated in the World Cup qualifiers, but South Korea always made it through. Players like Hwangbo Kang have made Korean soccer stand out. Even in 1995, Japan was still weak. When I asked Vice President Moon Jung-sik to bring Hwang-bo Kang with me, he said he would be happy to introduce him.


Finally, on December 23, 1995, I got to meet Korean superstar Hwangbo Kang at a hotel in Seoul. I fearlessly proposed to Hwang Bo Kang that we should form a team to represent Asia. To be frank, the team we were creating was in a difficult situation with limited finances and no soccer field. Hwangbo Kang was happy to come to Oita without any conflicts of interest. The following year, they formed Oita's soccer team, and in 2002 they hit it off with the goal of leading the team to a successful World Cup.


Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University is Japan's first international university, and we were able to create it with the cooperation of Jeon Mong-joon, president emeritus of the University of Ulsan. In the process of creating Oita Trinita, friendships were formed with the cooperation of many people in the Korean government, politics, and business circles. Sports exchanges between Korea and Japan have made great progress since then.


It was a good experience for me. At that time, I often visited South Korea in connection with the Japan-Korea World Cup. I learned a lot after learning that Korea has a good culture all over the country and that Japan has a lot to learn from. I was also very impressed by the excellent Korean food culture, including nutrition, balance, and fermentation. Above all, I was impressed by the Korean people's humanity and respect for the elderly. During this difficult and difficult time, we received the cooperation and support of many Korean people, including Hwangbo Kang. I may look cheerful, but I have gone through difficult times, including losing my hair and going through a divorce. At that time, the person who helped and supported me was Hwangbo Kang and many other Korean people.


During the 2002 World Cup, I wanted to promote Japan to the world. Fourteen years have passed since the successful completion of the World Cup, which served as a beachhead for Korean and Japanese soccer, and now Korean and Japanese soccer have climbed to the top of Asia.


When I founded Oita Trinita, I made a promise to the Korean Football Association. I had said that if I won in Japan, I would go to South Korea to greet them with the championship cup, and that dream came true in 2008. As promised, they visited Korea with the championship cup. Unfortunately, the following year in 2009, our team finished last and felt like we had fallen from heaven to hell. I was extremely exhausted both mentally and physically, and I received scolding from many people. After that, I resigned as the team leader, and in 2010, I accepted the offer to return to government service and became the Director-General of the Japan Tourism Agency. Having lived in Oita Prefecture for a long time and been involved in many projects related to the World Cup, I took on the position with the feeling that Japan should once again promote itself to the world.


I think there are five things that Japan is proud of. One of them is beautiful nature. Japan is a safe and clean country with 70% of its land covered by forests. This is also associated with health and longevity. Japan is the country with the highest longevity in the world. Since ancient times, we have had the skills to make things well. I believe that Japan has the technological power to take over the world. If we discover and refine this and expand it into the world, we will be able to revitalize the development of each region and energize Japan as a whole.


I have been advocating for a long time that Japan, China, and South Korea should increase the number of people they interact with. According to some Japanese data from 2014, the number of people interacting with Korea, China, and Japan is steadily increasing. A meeting with the Commissioner of the Tourism Agency was also held in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. During the talks, in Pyeongchang, we made bibimbap for 300 people and the visitors ate it together.

I am especially grateful to the people of South Korea, because at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the victims were extremely exhausted, but the people of South Korea rushed to the scene earlier than anywhere else and provided a lot of aid. Travel officials sent tourists to Japan to help. I am still grateful. I believe that the people of Japan, who received the most assistance during the Great East Japan Earthquake, must remember and repay their debts.


I believe that the Chinese economy will grow further in the future, contributing to the revitalization of the economies of South Korea, China, and Japan. If the Japan-Korea Tunnel is promoted in earnest from now on, exchanges between Korea, China, and Japan will be accelerated. The Winter Olympics to be held in PyeongChang in 2018 will ultimately stimulate the promotion of tourism culture in Korea, China, and Japan. This led to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I believe that these big global events will serve as an opportunity to greatly expand exchanges between Korea, China, and Japan. I think that if we miss this opportunity, future exchanges between Korea, China, and Japan will become difficult. How we spend this period is a critical issue.


The population of Asia has exceeded 4 billion. In 2030, there will be 5.5 billion people. We must pursue how South Korea, China, and Japan can lead the economic development of developing countries such as Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Malaysia, and revitalize the entire Asian economy. This is a serious issue not only within the region but also for global economic development.


Currently, Japan has formulated 10 plans for economic growth over the next 10 years, including the Fourth Industrial Revolution, renewable energy, and housing remodeling. Through this, we are trying to increase overall productivity and connect to the world. I believe that the Japan-Korea tunnel project will play a very important role in increasing new distribution with Asian countries and export tourism.


Regarding the Japan-Korea Tunnel, many people expressed their opinions when I was the Commissioner of the Japan Tourism Agency. Even the economic world recognized its necessity. Many people thought positively about the Japan-Korea tunnel. One of them was that the Japan-Korea Tunnel would be able to promote and expand exchange relations between Korea, China, and Japan. The growth rates of both South Korea and Japan continue to decline, and dynamism is needed for economic recovery.

Mediocre efforts are not enough. Everyone must think to the best of their ability and pool their strength. We must bring about a shift in thinking to connect Eurasia into one market. In terms of Asian dynamism, if the Japan-Korea Tunnel has greater significance in terms of the world economy than the joint hosting of the Japan-Korea World Cup, the long-term economic exchange effects will exceed that of the World Cup.


Japan's population is also decreasing significantly. There are limits to the current economic growth framework. We should take an active interest in the Japan-Korea Tunnel from the perspective of starting a new major economic trend. The Japan-Korea Tunnel will have enormous ripple effects in all directions, including not only political, economic, sports, and cultural development in both countries, but also tourism, distribution, technological development, human resource development, regional development, and peace in Northeast Asia.


One year has passed since I started my relationship with Japan-Korea Tunnel. In Japan, Japan-Korea Tunnel Promotion Councils are organized as private councils in 34 of Japan's 47 prefectures, and include members of Congress and local government leaders. I think that the Japan-Korea tunnel issue will become even more active in the future, to the point where it will be seriously debated in the Diet.

The ultimate goal is for the Japan-Korea tunnel to become a government project. If possible, I think that a traveling meeting should be held at a ministerial-level meeting between Korea, China, and Japan for discussions. Japan is steadily preparing in this dimension. I think South Korea also needs to promote the tunnel project at the government level. A new momentum must be created across the board in the Republic of Korea.

Organizations to promote this project should be created not only in Busan, but also in eups, myeons, provinces, and Seoul all over the country. I think the President of South Korea should also think about this and work hard to make it a reality. In the past, during the Japan-Korea World Cup, the Japanese and South Korean leaders met almost every day for discussions. More importantly, we must abandon the vague idea that a Japan-Korea tunnel will someday become a reality. In my case, I decide on when I want to achieve the goal and then proceed with the work. In projects where we don't know when they will be completed, no one takes responsibility for the outcome.


For example, we should formulate and mutually confirm a plan for the Japan-Korea tunnel: ``A Japan-South Korea intergovernmental agreement will be adopted by 2020, and construction will definitely begin by 2030.'' In the future, global competitions such as the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will be held in Asia. I believe that a plan must be created through discussions at the top level, including the ministers of both Japan and Korea, to promote the Japan-Korea tunnel construction plan as a result of hosting a major sporting event.


A revolution starts with one person. I think you have to be determined to do this and see it through to the end even if no one understands. If everyone who knows the value of the Japan-Korea Tunnel works together with the mindset of working together for the future of South Korea and Japan, I am sure this project will be a success.


“We will cooperate to start construction of the Japan-Korea tunnel.”

I hear that South Korea now has a new president and is in a difficult economic situation. In Japan, the economy of large cities is growing, but regional cities are in a difficult situation. Both Japan and South Korea share the same difficulties due to the disparity between large cities and regional cities. In order to overcome these difficulties, we can achieve results by setting the goal of starting construction of the Japan-Korea Tunnel by 2030 and moving forward with a ``World Cup spirit.'' I believe it is important for both Japan and South Korea to create positive momentum for the future.


I think the time has come for Korea and Japan to do business together. The Japan-Korea tunnel will be the biggest business for both countries. I have been very indebted to many people in South Korea, so in order to repay that kindness, I would like to take the lead in promoting exchanges and economic revitalization between Japan and South Korea. Through today's encounter, I once again pray that the Japan-Korea Tunnel will be opened. I will also cooperate, albeit in a limited capacity in Japan.


<This article was written by Hiroshi Mizohata (Chairman of the Osaka Tourism Bureau, 57 years old, former Director General of the Japan Tourism Agency) at the 22nd Peace Road Forum held at the JS Marriott Hotel in Banpo-dong, Seoul on July 17th. This is an excerpt from a lecture I gave on the theme of ``The Japan-Korea tunnel is the dynamism of economic exchange in East Asia.'' 〉




Hiroshi Mizohata


After graduating from the Faculty of Law at the University of Tokyo, he joined the Ministry of Home Affairs (currently the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) and served as Director of the Finance Division, Director of the Cultural Promotion Division, and Deputy Director of the Planning Department (in charge of the World Cup and universities) in Oita Prefecture, before serving as the Director-General of the Tourism Agency under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. Ta. He currently serves as chairman of the Osaka Tourism Bureau and director of the Oita Football Club, and is working hard to develop Japan's tourism industry and promote sports.




The original Korean text is translated into Japanese.

The original text can be viewed in the link below or in PDF format.


South Korea should also form a “Korea-Japan Tunnel Promotion Committee”




You can view the Japanese translation PDF below.


  • South Korea also has a ``Korea-Japan Tunnel Promotion Committee''...

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