Press Relations Article

Is a Korea-Japan undersea tunnel possible?

Once opened, it is expected to become a beachhead for the advancement of the Korean and Japanese civilizations into Eurasia.

Monthly Chosun December 2018 issue
Reporter Shin Seung-min

・Longest route of 231km connecting Busan/Geoje → Tsushima → Karatsu, Japan

・Japan's Seikan Tunnel and the English Channel Tunnel have already opened... "Technical capabilities are sufficient"

・At the time of opening, the annual cargo transportation volume was 32.76 million tons, or 6.55 million containers.

・Weaknesses include construction costs of 100 trillion won, high freight costs, and decrease in shipping volume

・Japan's promotion group: ``Even if we invest more human resources and money, we will open the line in advance.''



[Image of completed Korea-Japan submarine tunnel graphic = provided by promotion group]


The Korea-Japan submarine tunnel, which was proposed in 1981 but stalled, is once again attracting attention. On October 31st, the Korea-Japan Tunnel Research Association held a ``Korea-Japan Tunnel Yeongnam Region Promotion Conference'' with 500 participants gathered on the 5th floor of the Busan Family Federation Building in Dong-gu, Busan City. In his speech at the convention, Lee Yong-hum, representative of the Korea-Japan Tunnel Study Group, said, ``Over the past 30 years, Korea and Japan have been conducting a lot of research on this issue.The Korea-Japan Tunnel Project will bring both countries together. This means that Japan will essentially become a leading player in world peace." Park Sung-yeol, director of the Korea-Japan Tunnel Study Group, said, ``To date, a total of more than 200 to 300 billion won has been invested in the Korea-Japan Tunnel project, because it was worth it.'' ) is delayed, Japan and Russia will likely connect Hokkaido to the Trans-Siberian Railway, blocking South Korea's path to expanding into the Eurasian continent.''


Nowadays, as relations between the two countries deteriorate due to past historical issues, is a Korea-Japan tunnel politically and scientifically possible? Are there any safety issues or environmental destruction issues? Other than the ``abstract legitimacy'' of communication, restoration of relations, and cultural exchange, what practical benefits can the two countries gain? We looked into the possibilities of the ``Korea-Japan Undersea Tunnel,'' which has been subject to debate over the past several decades as to whether it will open or not.



[Graphics = provided by the promotion group]


The Korea-Japan Tunnel is a course that connects Busan and Geoje Island in South Korea, via Tsushima, and Karatsu City in Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan. The total length is 209-231km (128-145km undersea section). It is unique in that it is not a single long tunnel, but rather a ``linking of short tunnels'' that is divided into three sections for each stopover point. The detailed route is Plan A, which connects Geoje Island to Tsushima Shimojima and Karatsu City (total length 209 km, undersea section 145 km), Plan B, which goes from Geoje Island to Karatsu City via Tsushima Kamijima (total length 217 km, undersea section 141 km). , Plan C, which connects Busan directly to Karatsu City (total length 231km, undersea section 128km), has been proposed.


Japan was the first to promote the opening of the line. After the International Highway Construction Corporation was established in Japan in April 1982, the ``Japan-Korea Tunnel Study Group'' was established in May of the following year, led by Japan's Professor Emeritus of Hokkaido University, Yasuo Sasa. In July of the same year, a Japanese promotion team began land and sea surveys in Karatsu City, Iki, and Tsushima in Saga Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan.


In October 1986, pilot (preliminary exploration) tunnel construction, or ``diagonal shaft'' construction, began in Karatsu City. Ground, marine and aerial topographical surveys were carried out, along with an environmental dynamics survey along the tunnel section. The first phase of construction (slant distance 10 to 210 m) was carried out from October 1986 to September 1987, and the second phase construction (slope distance 210 to 410 m) was carried out from May 1988 to March 1991. The third phase of construction (slope distance 410 to 610 m) began in October 2006, and excavation to a depth of 547 m has now been completed. In 2014, we carried out diagonal shaft construction in the Are area on the west coast of Tsushima. The Japanese promotion team plans to resume construction of the third stage and then proceed with construction of the fourth stage (610 to 810 m), the fifth stage (810 to 1,010 m), and the sixth stage (1,010 to 1,210 m). Their goal is to complete all pilot and main construction by 2030.


In South Korea, the Korea-Japan Tunnel Study Group was established in 1986, and in October 1988, a boring survey was conducted in five areas around Geoje Island. In 1990, President Roh Tae-woo proposed a Korea-Japan tunnel in a speech to the Japanese National Assembly, and then Japanese Prime Minister Kaifu spoke in favor of it. Nine years later, President Kim Dae-jung brought up the Korea-Japan tunnel project at a Korea-Japan summit meeting, and President Roh Moo-hyun also mentioned the need for the Korea-Japan tunnel in a subsequent meeting with Prime Minister Koizumi. In 2008, the Korea-Japan Tunnel Study Group and the Busan Development Research Institute jointly surveyed the route of the Korea-Japan Tunnel (Iki, Tsushima, Japan, etc.). That year, Park Sam-gu, chairman of Kumho Asiana Group, also expressed interest in building the Korea-Japan tunnel. Recently, on November 14, 2016, the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification held a commemorative event to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the construction of the Korea-Japan Tunnel in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, Japan.


"The possibility of earthquakes, flooding, and environmental pollution is small."



Eiji Tokuno Chairman, International Highway Foundation


Regardless of the construction period, do they have the technical strength to dig a tunnel? Engineers from both countries, especially the Japanese side, take the position that there is no problem. Japan already has experience in 1964, when it opened the Seikan Undersea Tunnel (a tunnel connecting Japan's Honshu and Hokkaido, with a length of 53.9 km and an undersea section of 23.3 km). In 1986, Japanese personnel also participated as technical advisors when construction began on the English Channel Tunnel (a tunnel connecting Folkestone in southern England and Calais in northern France, with a length of 49.94 km and an undersea section of 37.9 km). Engineers believe that the maximum depth of water in the Busan Strait (Western Channel of the Korean Strait), Tsushima Strait (Eastern Channel of the Korean Strait), Iki Strait, etc. through which the Korea-Japan Tunnel passes is approximately 230 meters, and that it can be constructed using existing excavation methods. I'm taking it.


Regarding this, Eiji Tokuno, chairman of the International Highway Foundation and head of the Korea-Japan Tunnel Promotion Team in Japan, said in a written interview with reporters, ``It can be said that there is almost no danger (of tunnel collapse due to lack of technical ability).'' '', and ``In order to avoid active faults (currently active faults, which are unstable crust of the earth with the possibility of earthquakes) from the beginning, the construction will cause ruptures (cracks in the rock caused by human-induced destruction) due to earthquakes.'' The possibility of flooding is extremely small.It can be said that the possibility of flooding is almost non-existent at the time of construction of the main mine." These are his words.


"Undersea tunnels, whose seismic intensity is reduced to about one-tenth of that on land, are more resistant to earthquakes than expected. Also, although this is a large-scale construction project, there is little marine pollution or damage to fisheries. Because they are excavated underground, they are The impact will be minimal. However, the key point is how to dispose of the enormous amount of leftover soil, waste rock, and wastewater, and we are working hard to secure a site that will make this possible."


Annual logistics operating profit 2,233.7 billion won

How much will the two countries actually benefit from opening the tunnel? According to an explanation from the Japanese promotion team, South Korea will receive an economic ripple effect of 54 trillion won and Japan 88 trillion won. South Korea will receive 13 trillion won and Japan 18 trillion won from the construction industry alone. South Korea will benefit from the development of its tourism industry, reduced logistics costs, the creation of political and economic conditions for unification, and the securing of tunnel construction technology. Japan will be able to secure expansion into the continent and expand trade and people-to-people exchanges with North and South Korea, China, and Europe.



Construction site inside the Korea-Japan submarine tunnel inclined shaft in Karatsu City, Saga Prefecture, Japan.

The third phase of construction (slope distance 410-610m) has been underway since October 2006, and excavation has now been completed to a depth of 547m.

Photo = Provided by the promotion group


According to a report in Japan's Nagasaki Shimbun dated July 5, Yoshiyasu Noda, a professor at Seinan Gakuin University, estimated that if the Korea-Japan Tunnel were opened, the annual logistics operating profit excluding passenger demand would be 225.3 billion yen (approximately 225.3 billion yen). estimated to reach 233.7 billion won). Assuming that construction begins in 2020 and the line opens in 2030, the annual volume of cargo transported to and from Japan between South Korea, China, and Russia will reach 32.76 million tons. 6.55 million containers will travel through the Korea-Japan Tunnel.


If huge profits are generated, as Professor Noda's analysis suggests, how will the two countries share this? Among the various management methods that have been proposed so far, a ``public-private joint corporation'' structure, in which the governments of both countries invest a certain amount of stock and the private sector takes the lead in exercising management rights, is reportedly the most likely. The governments of both countries will provide financial support within the scope of the public interest, and the structure of revenue distribution based on the government's contribution will be determined based on consultation between the two countries. The private sector investment will be carried out in the form of a ``consortium'' (an association or association for a common purpose, a method in which large and small business entities work together around the main business operator) in which domestic and foreign companies participate.



According to a report in Japan's Nagasaki Shimbun dated July 5, Yoshiyasu Noda, a professor at Seinan Gakuin University, said that if the Korea-Japan tunnel were to open, the annual volume of cargo transported to and from Japan by Korea, China, and Russia would be 3,276. It is expected to reach 10,000 tons.

Photo = NEWSIS


On the other hand, some have pointed out that the economic effects of the Korea-Japan tunnel will not be significant, considering construction costs reaching 100 trillion won and the possibility of a decrease in shipping traffic. In 2011, the Ministry of Land, Land, and Maritime Affairs (of South Korea) dismissed the Korea-Japan tunnel concept as ``not reasonable'' from an economic perspective through a ``plausibility study.'' In response, an official from Japan's International Highway Foundation said, ``There is a possibility that shipping traffic volume will decline in the short term,'' but added, ``As the transportation infrastructure of both countries develops with the opening of the tunnel, The regional economy will also develop as a whole. In the medium to long term, the ripple effect of this will lead to a dramatic increase in shipping volume."


The official said, ``The ideal plan (for the opening of the Korea-Japan Tunnel) would be to use the national budgets of both countries for construction, leave the operation to the private sector, and manage the revenue. ) Construction costs are procured from the government budget, but the 'concession' method, in which business rights are sold to the private sector and appropriated (again) to national expenditures, has recently been used for airport construction, etc. "Like the tunnel example (Korea-Japan Tunnel), if it gets back on track after privatization, the number of passengers and revenue will increase."


"All-weather means of transportation suitable for mass cargo transportation"

Once the Korea-Japan Tunnel opens, how much time and how many people will be able to travel between the two countries? According to a study conducted in March by a Japanese academic community, the number of people transported will be approximately 1 million per year. Of course, this is speculation without any relevant data, so the most realistic reference material is the example of the Anglo-France tunnel that has already been opened. This is because the UK-France tunnel has many similarities with the Korea-Japan tunnel in terms of the historical relationship between the two countries, economic levels, population size, existing means of transportation, and location. In the 10 years since it opened in May 1994, 390 million people have used the Anglo-France tunnel. In terms of logistics volume, it was 360 million tons, equivalent to approximately 25% of the total cargo volume between the UK and continental Europe.


In terms of fares and time, it would be more advantageous to use the existing routes by air or ship, so is there any need to use the undersea tunnel between Korea and Japan? Furthermore, the fares for the UK-France Tunnel, which is one-fifth as close as the Korea-Japan Tunnel, are not cheap, but ``the fares for the Korea-Japan Tunnel can reach five times that of the UK-France Tunnel.'' There are some points.


According to the Japanese promotion group, the strength of the Korea-Japan tunnel is not its ``low-cost transportation of people,'' but its ``safety,'' which is unaffected by climate change and natural disasters. This means that it will become a ``means of transportation that can transport large amounts of cargo quickly and safely.'' An official from Japan's International Highway Foundation said, ``Airplanes and ships cannot operate in all weather conditions, and there is always the risk of traffic disruption.Airplanes in particular can only connect points (between specific areas), and transport There are limits to the number of people and the amount of cargo that can be carried out.'' He added, ``The strength of railways and roads is that they can keep their feet on the ground regardless of the climate. As the number of visits between the two countries will become more frequent, the friendship and friendly relations between the two countries will also deepen." The idea is to highlight the uniqueness and high efficiency of railways as strengths, and to break away from the negative perception that railways are a ``luxurious means of transportation.''


Can we dispel concerns about the “modern version of Seimei Kaido”?

On the other hand, some point out that undersea tunnels may contribute to Japan's expansion into the Korean Peninsula and the Eurasian continent. South Korea also has the national power to take the initiative in promoting the unification of the North and South and independently develop northern diplomacy, so why bother cooperating with Japan? Some people recall that during the Imjin War (Bunroku War), Toyotomi Hideyoshi, on the pretext of conquering the Ming Dynasty, demanded that the Joseon court open the flood gates and land routes to lend him access. points out. There are also concerns that the course that connects Busan/Geoje and Tsushima is reminiscent of the ``Invasion Route to Korea.'' There is even talk that there are concerns about a ``second Japanese colonial era.''


In response, Chairman Eiji Tokuno said, ``It is impossible for industrial and tourist roads to become the military's main route of attack,'' and ``(in times of war) it would be fine to just blow up and blockade the tunnels, so the military "It is impossible for it to be used for transporting." He said, ``I have no intention of promoting this to prioritize Japan's interests.It has great significance in realizing prosperity and peace for both countries, and ultimately for the world.'' We must take the lead in opening the tunnel, even if we provide support."


``We live in an age where it is difficult for Japan to prosper as a country unless it is pan-worldly and has a global perspective.Nowadays, Japan must serve the world through its economic and technological strength. We can become a country worthy of the closeness and respect of each country.It will also be a path to apologizing for the mistakes we made during World War II, which caused great damage to Asian countries. If we can build relationships with other countries naturally through friendly attitudes and actions, and if we can build mutual trust and goodwill, I believe that this will be our nation's greatest asset."


Translated Monthly Chosun December 2018 issue


You can download the Japanese translation PDF here.

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