Could Moony build the world's longest undersea tunnel connecting Japan and South Korea?
Text: Kenji Hall
Illustrations: Eiko Ojala
For Hirofumi Sato, world peace is not a picture cake. He knows what kind of results an undersea tunnel connecting Japan and South Korea would produce. "Cross-border infrastructure will end the possibility of war," Sato said from his Tokyo office, where impressive blueprints of elaborate highways hang on the walls. "This could bring lasting peace, and borders and walls between nations would become meaningless."
This is a cliché that Mr. Sato uses in meetings with Japanese members of Congress. As president of the International Highway Foundation (IHF), Mr. Sato has convinced the Japanese government in several years that a tunnel connecting Karatsu, in Kyushu, in the southwest of Japan, to Busan, on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula, is worth the investment. I have talked about it for a long time.
At 250km long, it is the longest undersea tunnel in the world, four times as long as Japan's Seikan Tunnel (a railway tunnel connecting Honshu and Hokkaido), and five times as long as the English Channel Tunnel. According to estimates by the International Highway Foundation, the construction period will be at least 15 years and the cost will be approximately 10 trillion yen (86 billion euros), but there is a possibility of construction delays and the need for many techniques to excavate the soft layer of the Tsushima Strait West Channel. These issues are not taken into account in this estimate. Is this project even possible? Despite more than 30 years of lobbying politicians by the International Highway Foundation, progress has been slow.
However, even though Mr. Sato feels frustrated, he does not show it. Mr. Sato explains that the International Highway Foundation responds to the wishes of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church (currently the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification), and to God's calling. Moon advocated an international highway and a Japan-Korea tunnel in 1981. Moon envisioned his family living in Tokyo getting in a car and driving to London. Five months later, the International Highway Foundation (formerly the International Highway Corporation) was established.
Today, the Families Federation for World Peace is funding the International Highway project. What was originally planned as a road tunnel has now developed into a railway tunnel modeled after Eurotunnel and Japan's Shinkansen.Since the establishment of the International Highway Foundation, it has been involved in planning, seabed surveys, and Kyushu and other railway tunnels. It has already spent 12 billion yen (103 million euros) on land acquisitions in Tsushima and Iki.
It is unclear how the International Highway Foundation will be able to garner widespread support for its ideals, but it will likely be more difficult for Japan and South Korea, which have often fought each other, to agree on high-level connectivity. But both countries are considering the idea. In 2009, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak ordered a feasibility study. A Japanese government advisory body has taken up the Japan-Korea tunnel as one of the projects to build a joint relationship between Tokyo and Seoul. Last year, the Busan mayor reportedly earmarked 200 million won (165,000 euros) for a review of the project.
The International Highway Foundation continues to fund construction, seeking support in Tokyo and Seoul. "Economists quit their projects if they are not profitable. Politicians stop their plans if they receive opposition. But we have a long-term perspective. There has to be someone who is willing to pursue their dreams," Sato said. talk.
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