Peace Road monthly magazine

Korea-Japan tunnel project, US actively supports

special interview

Stephen Costello

Visiting Professor, Institute of Korean Studies , George Washington University


Professor Stephen Costello (66) is a political analyst. Currently, he is a visiting professor at the George Washington University and Korean Studies Institute, which is famous for public policy research, and a visiting researcher at the Gyeonggi Research Institute in Uijeongbu, where he writes about the Korean Peninsula issue in the English version of the Korea Ilbo. I have been writing columns for 13 years.


On August 21, I met him at the ``Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel Conference Invited by Professor Stefan Costello,'' hosted by the Korea-Japan Tunnel Research Association in Haeundae, Busan. Last April, after Kim Jong-in, chairman of the ``People's Power'' emergency response committee, announced that he would ``actively consider promoting a Korea-Japan submarine tunnel,'' ``promotion of a Korea-Japan submarine tunnel'' was announced in the Busan mayoral by-election. It caused a huge stir and once again became an opportunity for public opinion in Busan to take a big interest. I asked him what he thought about the prospects for the Korea-Japan submarine tunnel project.


 -The purpose of this visit to Korea is


In the mid-1990s, he had frequent contact with members of the Democratic Party of Korea through his ties to the Asia-Pacific Foundation (FDL-AP), which was founded by former President Kim Dae-jung.

At the time, the progressive democratic orientation of the Asia Pacific Foundation, President Kim Dae-jung's policy staff organization, aroused great interest in the political world in Washington, and I continued to visit South Korea for more than 30 years with great interest and unrelenting passion. .


If you count the number of times, it will probably exceed 50 times. Currently, he is a visiting professor at George Washington University and the Institute of Korean Studies, and continues to conduct research with the Gyeonggi Institute on themes related to the situation on the Korean Peninsula and inter-Korean cooperation. He regularly visits Korea to advance this research.



If the tunnel is built, it will be a treasure trove to ease tensions in Northeast Asia.


-How did you hear about the Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel Project and what do you think about it?


After the inter-Korean summit meeting was held on June 15, 2000, even more active efforts were made to promote a major infrastructure project that would connect the south and the north and link the Korean peninsula to China and Russia. I started to take an interest in it.

After learning about the Korea-Japan Tunnel Project through news media and acquaintances, he came to believe that it would become one of the major international social infrastructure facilities for the realization of peace.


Even if the Japanese and Korean governments do not express support for the Korea-Japan tunnel project amid the current cold relations between the two countries, there are overwhelming economic and strategic reasons for it. Furthermore, tunnel and bridge construction projects in Europe and Asia brought about many developments and solved many technical problems.

Projects eligible for support from U.S. infrastructure expansion funds


explain why the Korea-Japan submarine tunnel is necessary .


The Korea-Japan Tunnel Project has several objectives of great value to both Korea and Japan. This is a major project that allows both countries to move away from disputes over history and toward a political focus.

And while imagining the enormous benefits this project represents, leaders of both countries will wonder how much it will benefit their countries.

In addition, the Korea-Japan tunnel project will prove Korea's engineering and technical expertise and demonstrate its usefulness, as well as its modern capabilities and new technology development.


do you think is the biggest the Korea-Japan tunnel will bring ?


Perhaps this will ease tensions in Northeast Asia. This must be a significant practical advantage, as it ultimately affects defense spending and threat assessments.


As a matter of de-escalation, this project would lend itself to new regional arms control agreements. Additionally, adding the Korea-Japan Tunnel as a multi-purpose corridor connecting the east and west coasts would be valuable as it would make it easier to move cargo and people between Russia, China, South Korea, North Korea and Japan. It will increase further.


-Do you think there is a role for the US in the Korea-Japan tunnel project


The US is interested in South Korea and Japan cooperating economically and strategically. Therefore, it will actively support the Korea-Japan undersea tunnel project. The Biden administration has started a movement to support the ``Build Back Better Infrastructure Fund for Asia.''

Therefore, the Korea-Japan tunnel project can be interpreted as worthy of the United States' support of resources and funds. Several US officials are concerned about the South Korean government's heavy dependence on China and the potential for conflicting interests on the Korean peninsula.


The Korea-Japan Tunnel Project aims to dispel such concerns by showing how the two major democratic factions in Northeast Asia, South Korea and Japan, can strengthen mutual relations and bring North Korea closer together through economic cooperation. will.

At the same time, political figures in Washington seem to be fed up with the year-old debate on peace in Northeast Asia. If a substantive plan is proposed that emphasizes strategic access and rationale, it will be listened to.


With the start of the Biden administration, Democratic politicians are trying to create a more active and progressive Korea-US relationship. It will be judged that this will be beneficial for the United States and will support it even more actively. From this perspective, the Korea-Japan Tunnel Project can be seen as a very concrete and logical initiative for the Northeast Asia Peace Strategy.


do you want to convey to those involved in promoting the Korea-Japan tunnel


Validity research must continue, and the public's opinions must be expressed to the Korean and Japanese governments. Since it is logical for the government to undertake this project, it is necessary to put pressure on it to do so.


Furthermore, the Korea-Japan Tunnel Project can use political methods to attract as many people as possible by presenting greater strategic advantages.



South Korea should lead the way in changing the way the US approaches the Korean Peninsula


-North-South relations continue to deteriorate . Where can we find a breakthrough in improving inter-Korean relations


North-South relations must improve quickly. There's no time to waste. The South Korean government must take the initiative and come up with its own plan for the North Korean issue, including denuclearization.

In the past, President Kim Dae-jung advocated ``peace first, then unification.'' Regarding peace in Northeast Asia, since the South and North are on parallel lines and it is difficult to form a relationship, it is necessary to cooperate with the East European countries such as China and Russia, including North Korea, and the Western European countries, such as the United States and Japan, including South Korea. A peace structure must be established that both sides agree on.

These strategies would serve denuclearization, economic development, and strategic détente, respectively.



Only close mutual assistance between South Korea, the US, and Japan can create peace in Northeast Asia.


Is there a better way to bring North Korea out into the international community?


By easing sanctions against North Korea, the United States and South Korea hope that China and Russia (after the Hanoi North Korea-US talks) will be able to induce North Korea to comply with new negotiations.

Over the past 20 years, North Korea has taken a deep interest in participating in the international community. Easing sanctions on North Korea and providing economic cooperation are the best means for denuclearization and the integration of North Korea into the Korean Peninsula and Japan's Prosperity Zone.


-The Korean peninsula has been divided for over 70 years and unification is far away. core solutions for the unification of the Korean Peninsula, what ? 


Easing tensions is one of the essential tasks to bring out mutual benefits between the North and South. The new agreement not only lowers tensions but also reconsiders military spending.

A significant portion of that expenditure could be used for economic development and improving the quality of life of both South and North Korea. South Korea must play a central role in changing the way the United States deals with the Korean Peninsula.

Therefore, South Korea's strategy toward the United States should focus on denuclearization, development, military cooperation, etc.


 -The coronavirus crisis is about to reach another year . The social and national losses are large and the level of fatigue is high. Professor Costel must have had a hard time , but there any lessons to be learned from the coronavirus ?


of course. The coronavirus situation has made it clear that no country can remain isolated.

Unless North Korea quickly disseminates vaccines, it will not be able to survive the ``black hole'' of military buildup and arms race. Corona has shown us that all nations must include the corona vaccine in their diplomacy.


do you teach students at university


There are many students at George Washington University who are interested in Korean. Every time I introduce them to the situation in South Korea and Northeast Asia, I can feel their eyes sparkle with interest and passion.

Cooperation between South Korea, the United States, and Japan for peace in Northeast Asia is the development of a rational relationship. It begins with an expression of a desire to coexist on a broader scale, going beyond nationalism that only pursues one's own interests. When asserting yourself, it's a good idea to focus on what the other person is interested in and willing to listen to.

This leads to themes that can coexist with each other. I emphasize this to young people.


-What are your impressions after visiting Korea?


I was most impressed by the way the Korean people actively participated in COVID prevention efforts and made efforts to suppress the virus themselves. I envy the public's high level of civic awareness, understanding and cooperating with national epidemic prevention guidelines such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated, even if the number of coronavirus cases is rapidly increasing.


South Korea's long-term investment in public infrastructure is also impressive. Public facilities are clean and modern because the people understand that the government's job is to create spaces that are convenient for everyone. This is a great lesson for other countries.

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