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Y. Ishii: Address to World Summit 2020

Address to World Summit 2020, Seoul, Korea, February 3-8, 2020


Transcending time and place, history shows us that enrichment of an international transportation route has enabled active exchange between people and goods, contributing to global economic development and world peace.

Although the Japanese National Railways had a history of almost 150 years, a radical management reform, breakup and privatization of the railways occurred 33 years ago. After serving at the National Railways for a long period, I promoted this reform, and starting in 1987 I served for ten years as the CEO for one of the newly emerged private-sector corporations, JR Kyushu [Kyushu Railway Company], followed by my also serving as chairman. JR Kyushu is a railway company in proximity with Korea and China across the ocean.

In 1991, with the collaboration of the Korean National Railway Office and the Pusan Tourism Association, we opened an international sea route for high-speed vessels between the large cities of Fukuoka in Japan and Pusan in Korea. This vessel, whose transit time is approximately three hours, was nicknamed “Beetle.” The two cities have become like close neighbors, and it has been said that the flourishing travel of young people between the cities has been a great achievement. I have continued to say that this will continue until an undersea tunnel is created.

Now, I would like to make two proposals.

Firstly, there is a project to connect the railways between Japan and Korea with an undersea tunnel. So far, a tunnel between the two countries has been referred to as the “Japan-Korea Tunnel” or the “Korea-Japan Tunnel,” but I propose that instead we use a common name, the Asia Strait Tunnel. This tunnel would connect not only Japan and Korea but also the Japanese islands in the Pacific and the Asian continent, further connecting to the Eurasian continent.

It not only would enable a rapid progress of the international distribution of goods but also would effect a significant improvement of global environmental issues—for example, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and saving energy. The undersea railway tunnel of the Strait of Dover connecting the United Kingdom and France in Europe is called the Channel Tunnel.

The second proposal is about realizing the Olympic Asia Strait Limited Express within this year. This summer the 2020 Olympics and the 2020 Paralympics both will take place in Tokyo. Also, in 2022 the Winter Olympics will take place in Beijing. This would be an opportunity to propose a route that can be traveled with a single ticket, using overnight express, a high-speed vessel sea route, and bullet trains between Beijing, Pyongyang, Seoul, Pusan, Fukuoka and Tokyo.

The border of North Korea and South Korea at the Imjin River is connected by a railway across an iron bridge. While I was president of the company, I also once observed the site together with the head of the Korean State Railway of North Korea. The railway men around the world are close friends of relay beyond borders of nations, ethnicities and religions.

I hope these proposals may gain approval with your attendance. I look forward to people from around the world visiting the 2020 Olympics and 2020 Paralympics this summer. Thank you.



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