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S. Nagano: Address to World Summit 2014

The Japan-Korea Tunnel and Peace in East Asia
Excerpted in an Address to World Summit 2014, Seoul, Korea, August 9-13, 2014

A history of Japan-Korea relations

Japan and Korea have interacted with one another for more than 2,000 years. When Confucianism and Buddhism thrived in China, Korean intellectuals accepted and developed these beliefs into formal studies. Korean ceramic and porcelain artists who migrated to Japan were largely responsible for bringing this culture with them. They functioned as a cultural bridge between Japan and Korea, fusing Korean and Japanese cultures.

In the 19th century, Japan begun to rapidly accept European culture, while most other Asian countries tended to retain their national isolation and, as a result, were left behind in the process of cultural expansion. Japan imported values and knowledge from Europe to exploit these countries as part of an imperial policy to expand Japanese territory. In the process, Japan caused conflict with its neighbors, especially Korea and China.

Looking at the situation from the vantage point of the countries impacted, it is clear that the negative emotions last far longer than any memories of cooperation and mutual benefit during the period. This is especially true of the period of Japanese colonization in the early 20th century. This is part of history and should be viewed as such. It is essential to face the truth in order to begin to alleviate historical tensions. Mistakes should be acknowledged straightforwardly and renewed efforts made to build a relationship of trust so that such tragedies can be avoided in the future. At the same time, both Korea and Japan need to have the generosity of spirit to forgive recognize, and respect one another and to look for ways to work toward mutual prosperity. For both Japanese and Koreans, such recognition is important in order to build a relationship of trust for the future.

Accompanied by the changes in an era when globalization is being rapidly becoming a reality, traditional notions of national borders are becoming almost meaningless. The idea that territorial expansion and control of the world by use of imperial power is no longer valid. The world needs to recognize that limited resources, labor power, capital, technology and information are the common property of all humanity. Based on that, all should consider how to make the best use of these, for mutual benefit. Whether by two neighboring two countries, entire regions, or continents, on an international level, these goals need to be achieved for the sake of world peace and the happiness of the people in the world.

People as a bridge between Japan and Korea

Using the past as a lesson, there is a need to reflect upon what should be done to ensure that the mistakes of the past will never happen again. There have always been those who were free from pressures of short-term national interests and acted with broad perspectives beyond the boundaries of nation and race. These are the people who became the bridge between Japan and Korea and will be so in the future.

In the late 4th century, a scholar, Dr. Wani (Korean name Wang-In), a teacher of Confucian philosophy and studies, was invited to Japan by the Japanese Imperial household. The Nara Era History Book relates that he brought with him to Japan “the Thousand Character Classics” and “the Analects of Confucius.” Many other people from the Korean Peninsula contributed much to Japanese culture.

In the early 20th century, Tosaburo Wakamatsu, a Japanese consular officer stationed in Mokpo City, Korea, recommended the cultivation of upland cotton in Korea, which contributed greatly to the development of the Korean textile industry. Wakamatsu studied at the Doshisha English School, a Christian school in Kyoto, and passed the Diplomatic Service Examination while he was in law school at the University of Tokyo. An energetic and talented official, he worked for not only Japan’s national interest but also for the improvement of the lives of the Korean people where he was stationed. Having judged the weather and climate there suitable, he deemed that “heaven’s blessing” would ensure the success of cotton cultivation, especially American upland cotton which was drawing a great deal of world attention at that time; he believed that cultivation of upland cotton in Korea would contribute greatly to both the Japanese textile industry and to the development of Korean industry. He suggested this idea to the Japanese government, but he was initially ignored. He then conducted some experiments cultivating cotton, with help of others, at his own expense and confirmed the practicality of his idea, and then again proposed the plan to both governments. As a result, improved upland cotton production was treated as a national business which expanded nationwide in the Korean Peninsula, greatly contributing to development of its cotton industry. He was a man with insight into the dynamics of international relations and was committed to industrial development in Korea without regard to race, nationality or his social status as a Japanese consul. He was also a pioneer in the Korean sun-dried salt industry.

At the time of the Japanese colonization, Chizuko Tauchi, a daughter of a government official in the office of the Governor-General of Korea, was married to the Christian preacher Yun Chi-ho, who managed the Korean Mokpo Orphanage. One day, her husband went on a fundraising mission and never returned. While waiting for her missing husband, she raised about 3,000 war orphans alone, devoting the rest of her life to them. She was highly respected as the "mother of orphans," and a newspaper at the time of her death at age 57 commented: “the orphans' cry was Mokpo people’s cry.”

After World War II, the philosopher Masahiro Yasuoka wielded powerful influence on the Japanese business and political community and was called “the advisor of every prime minister” and “the coach of Japanese business and politics,” He was also a key player in the normalization of Japan-South Korea diplomatic relations in 1965. When the Korean government asked for help from Japan to create the General Steel Mill, it was he was who achieved its success by persuading others in politics and business, especially those in the iron and steel industry, who were against the Korean request. Yasuoka was a well-known Japanese nationalist and an intellectual conservative who reflected Japan’s national interest over the very long term and was able to view what was best for the future of both countries. The establishment of Pohang Steel was a huge contribution to nation-building and to the industrial development of Korea, and it also brought immeasurable benefit to Japan. Yasuoka was a philosopher who considered not immediate profits but profit in terms of a deeper, broader and long-term vision.

Arrival of a new era in Japan and Korea relations

The Japan-Korea New Era Joint Research Project, which consisted of both Japanese and Korean experts, issued a report entitled "Suggestions for the Japan-Korea New Era: Constitution of a Complex Network for Mutual Coexistence" in October 2010. In that report, the section “Promotion of an Undersea Tunnel” introduced the benefits of an undersea tunnel between Korea and Japan, ascertaining that such a tunnel would not only expand the flow of people and products but also serve as a connection between the island of Japan and the rest of the Asian continent. It noted that if this connection could lead to North Korea and the northeast part of China, through a rail network, these three countries would be connected and would connect to Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railway system.

Japan and Korea are not only neighbors but also share the common values of democracy and a market economy, which differs from other countries in the region. To compete against an enormous socialist country such as China, both Japan and Korea need to cooperate with one another on all levels, recognizing that it is far more efficient to work together with common values in the face of competition from China. This cooperation will help stabilize the balance of power in northeast Asia region, in addition to contributing to the overall stability and peace in this area.

Exchanges between Japan and Korea in a variety of fields, such as economy, culture, art and sports, have recently become much wider. Direct flights are available from 27 airports in Japan to four international airports in Korea, and 12 direct flights run from Haneda Airport to Gimpo Airport daily. As the flights between Haneda and Gimpo are accessible to major cities and also enable a one-day trip, they are often used for business purposes. In 2012, 5.56 million people came and went between the both countries; 2.04 million Koreans visited Japan, and 3.52 Japanese visited Korea. Last year, influenced by the worsening relationship, the number decreased slightly, but this is just a temporary situation. Mutual exchange deepens mutual understanding. Currently, 143 sister cities programs have been concluded, which allow local person-to-person communication.

Most of those coming and going between both countries do so by air, because it saves time. However, if an undersea tunnel is completed between Japan and Korea, traffic will increase using the railway and highway. Since the flow of not only people but also resources will increase in both directions, the economic influence could be immeasurable. The area within 500km from the length of a Japan-Korea tunnel, from the Kyusyu, Shikoku and Kinki regions of Japan to almost all of Korea, will be accessible via a Japan-Korea tunnel. Although these regions will be influenced by an undersea tunnel, if the railway is connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway system via North Korea, the peace and stabilization of the Korean Peninsula and the realization of an East Asian community will be significantly advanced as well.

Globalization has been progressing, and the notion of what constitutes national borders is changing significantly. Land, sea and air transportation systems have been extensively developed within a short period of time. Since Japan is separated from Korea by the sea, we need an undersea tunnel to add railway and highway access in addition to the traditional the car ferry and aircraft.

Civilizations are linked by roads; if roads, then vehicles will run on them. Railways were built to convey large numbers of people and large amounts of cargo. The construction of buildings, roads, tunnels and bridges are now planned and built with advanced technological systems. The Shinkansen, with a speed of 300km per hour, and linear motor cars with a speed of 500km per hour have entered the market.

Historical background of the birth of the EU and the role of the Channel Tunnel

The formation of the European Union dates back to the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community in 1952. France and Germany had waged a number of wars over the control of the coal and iron mines in the Ruhr, Saar, and Lorraine regions, all of which lie in the borderland between both countries. As the coal and steel industries were crucial to the economies and power of both countries, repeated warfare was the net result of a struggle for survival. At that time, philosophers who wanted to see an end to the war era raised their voice in protest. Jean Monet suggested that the coal and iron mines around the borders be managed by corporations. This suggestion was accepted by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, who proposed it to Germany, and German Prime Minister Konrad Adenauer agreed. The European Coal and Steel Community was established in 1952 with the help of the neighboring countries of Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg. These six countries established the EEC (European Economic Community) and EURATOM (European Atomic Energy Community) in 1958, both of which were integrated into the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Community in 1967. Later, others, Great Britain and Central and Eastern European countries, joined the European Community. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the democratization of Eastern Europe, the European Community became the European Union, which nearly all European countries have joined.

The EU’s economic integration has developed to include political integration, and now drives a “house of Europe.” Even though the EU has major issues, it has maintained peace and genuine cooperation successfully thus far. It should be remembered that the historical background of the EU’s beginning was the European Coal and Steel Community, which was formed as a means of solving the conflict over the control of the coal and iron mines in the borderland.

In 1994, the Channel Tunnel connecting Folkestone in England and Calais in France opened. There had been an over 200-year dispute over the feasibility and wisdom of a Channel tunnel; however, an agreement between British Prime Minister Thatcher and French President Mitterrand gave impetus to the plan. Britain and France had a long history of conflict and mistrust and had waged many wars against each other. The government of France’s Charles de Gaulle blocked Britain’s affiliation with the European Community. However, soon the situation changed. Citizens of both Britain and France confirmed that they would never wage a war again under the framework of the European Union and supported this bond so that they could deepen their partnership for their mutual benefit. As a result of this partnership, the Channel Tunnel opened.

The Channel Tunnel has contributed much to the improvement of the relationship between Britain and France and has strengthened their reciprocal relationship with an increased exchange of people and resources. This improved relationship between the leading countries in the European Union will definitely contribute to the EU’s stable framework in terms of politics, economics and security. The lessons from the construction of the Channel Tunnel between Britain and France and the subsequent political and economic benefits that have resulted, can serve as a model for a similar bridge with the Japan-Korea tunnel.

The design and perspective of a Japan-Korea tunnel

The concept of a Japan-Korea tunnel has been discussed since the early 20th century, but it was during the 1980s when it was first fully studied by a private sector-led group, the Japan-Korea Tunnel Research Institute, which was founded as a power base for promotion of the project. The Japan-Korea Tunnel Research Institute has pushed forward its research and investigation from various aspects since its foundation. Since February 2004, when it was certified as a specified nonprofit corporation by the Japanese government, the institute has seriously worked on promoting the construction of a Japan-Korea tunnel. Currently, the institute is researching possible routes and tunnel construction issues, including fieldwork, contacting interested groups on Korean side under the direction of Chairperson Daizo Nozawa.

1) Economic zone

As shown in Figure 1, within a 500km radius of Tsushima, the center of the tunnel, there are 80 million Japanese and Korean people. Within 1,000km, the population rises to 380 million; with 1,500km, the total is 840 million; and with 2,000km, the population is a whopping 1.18 billion. Compared to the Channel Tunnel, within 500km, the population is 130 million while with 1,000km, it is 260 million; with 1,500km, the total is 420 million, and with 2,000 km, it rises to 580 million. As you see, Japan-Korea tunnel will have far more potential economic reverberations in the region.

In assuming a feasible economic zone for a Japan-Korea tunnel, North Korea is an important factor since currently there is no free flow of traffic there. For the time being, we need to discuss the tunnel's potential based on the industry and population within a 500km radius which is under South Korean control. However, if the issues regarding North Korea are solved and peace in the Korean Peninsula is ensured, the route can be expanded to northeastern China and far eastern Russia, where the Trans-Siberian Railway system connects to Europe. Thus, the economic zone will be significantly expanded.

2) Role and application

A Japan-Korea tunnel will stimulate the flow of resources, people and vehicles. One of the advantages is speed and price, because using the tunnel will be faster and cheaper than that using ships and aircraft. There are some options of transportation through the tunnel, such as trains, cars or auto transport, but since trains were selected for the Seikan Tunnel and the Channel Tunnel, it is assumed that a shuttle train, a cargo container train, the Shinkansen and KTX could use the tunnel.

A linear motor car is another option, but it has not yet been used in undersea tunnels and is only in the experimental stage. Its use in a highway tunnel has also been researched; however, it needs to be tested first. A shuttle train could fulfill that purpose.

It is important that a Japan-Korea tunnel is able to deal with the traffic demands for both people and cargo. In the Channel Tunnel, a shuttle train in style of a car-train runs in the undersea tunnel. This could enable the tunnel to transport both cars and cargo. A train capable of traveling at the speed of the Shinkansen would save significant time.

3) Route

Routing is the most important factor because it will be the basis for detailed construction costs and a clear vision of its use. As shown in Figure 2, a new route suggested by the Japan-Korea Tunnel Research Institute begins at Fukuoka, connecting Karatsu, Iki, Tsushima, Keoje-do, Kangseo-area and Busan. The distance from Fukuoka to Busan is approximately 370km, with the distance between Karatsu and Keoje-do approximately 200km and the the undersea route approximately 130km.

For the terminals, it is necessary to choose cities which are developed economically, are easily accessible, and have significant population. In order to overcome the challenges of undersea construction, it is also necessary to select a route with favorable construction cost and maintenance. It is particularly essential to choose a route with the least sea depth.

Although Figure 2 shows the terminal in Japan as Karatsu, Fukuoka is the terminal on the current routing, and the terminal in Korea is Busan. At the terminals, existing transportation infrastructure such as railway, highway, airport and coastal roads need to be exploited. Near the tunnel exits, work bases need to be built for use as power stations, materials storage, and surplus soil treatment area during construction. After opening, the bases can be utilized for loading/unloading cars, arrivals and departures, cargo handling, and passing tracks separating express trains from local trains. Such bases will enhance the efficiency of operations.

Completion of a Japan-Korea tunnel will have a major economic impact and increase the movement of people and cargo. More importantly, it will contribute to the stabilization of the northeast Asia and ensure peace in the Korean Peninsula.

4) Construction costs and procurement methods

The biggest challenges facing the construction of a Japan-Korea tunnel are construction costs and revenue issues. The establishment of a route is required in order to estimate construction costs. The necessity of a service tunnel and its placement would affect the design. In addition, the early choice of appropriate construction methods is necessary in order to determine construction costs. A water extraction system will also be required. The track record of existing undersea tunnels should be taken into consideration as well.

Based on every available data, the construction costs of a 270km tunnel is estimated at 10 trillion yen. This number will change depending on further investigation and planning; however, it can be assumed that the total construction cost will be 10 trillion yen and the period of construction will be ten years.

The Channel Tunnel was launched with a worldwide fundraising effort by the private sector. However, the private fund of interest-bearing loans failed to support the project due to increased construction costs, change in transport configurations, and increased competition from ferries and aircraft. With a 53% debt waiver, they finally were able to create a new corporation which has since managed the tunnel favorably.

From this experience, it would seem necessary to position a Japan-Korea tunnel as a public enterprise which would receive financial support from both countries. In addition to financial procurement based on long-term government bonds, the project would likely need international funding through long-term, low-interest bonds. This financial issue is the biggest problem.

Management by a method of separating infrastructure and operation

Although construction expenses would vary with the routing, geology, planning and construction methods, its cost is estimated at 10 trillion yen. To promote a Japan-Korea tunnel, it is necessary to demonstrate detailed solutions to 4technical problems and a profitable framework for tunnel use when it goes into operation. A large portion of the costs involve boring an undersea tunnel that can be safely managed. If the construction funds are insufficient, future operations would prove difficult.

The Channel Tunnel was constructed with private funds, all of which were interest-bearing debt, and eventually failed. As a result, the management of the Channel Tunnel had to forgive 53% of its loans. The Seikan Tunnel in Japan was initiated by a loan from government financial investment; but the entire burden was absorbed by the government during the National Railways Reform, and then the tunnel was positioned as a public enterprise. In addition, two thirds of the very expensive maintenance costs, such as replacement of pumps, are paid by the government.

A Japan-Korea tunnel should be positioned as a public enterprise by both countries as well so that maintenance and stable operations can be strengthened. With this background, a method of separating infrastructure and operation would be effective. In this system, public entities take charge of construction and maintenance of infrastructure while private sectors manage its operation.

Purpose and perspective of a Japan-Korea tunnel construction

If a Japan-Korea tunnel is constructed, the transportation of cargo as well as people will increase sharply with significant economic impact. More importantly, it will contribute to the peace and stabilization in northeast Asia, including North Korea. This would make a positive international contribution to Asian countries as well as cultivate mutual prosperity. A Japan-Korea tunnel would not only connect Japan and Korea but could reach Europe via North Korea, northeastern China, and the Trans-Siberia Railway system.

Recently, the international situation has been in turmoil in northeast Asia, which has undergone substantial changes. Problems regarding pipeline construction which deliver natural gas from Russia to North Korea, and railway construction have drawn international attention. The construction of pipelines will contribute to the political and economic stabilization of North Korea and the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea is in an extremely difficult situation economically. It is naturally assumed that passage of a pipeline into North Korea will require some payback in return. Transit charges will be paid to North Korea, which is in their financial interest. Pipelines from Russia to South Korea via North Korea would be an opportunity to contribute to economic development for both South Korea and North Korea, by which the North Korean government can improve the life of its citizens, which may lead to reform and opening up to others. This would be a grand contribution to the peace and stabilization in the Korean Peninsula.

The pipeline construction is a massive and risky project for North and South Korea and needs to be planned carefully. As shown in the historic example in Germany, this project may change the history of the Korean Peninsula. The Autobahn, the highway connecting East and West Germany, contributed significantly to German reunification.

The German experience could serve as a model. With the completion of a Japan-Korea tunnel, a train departing from Tokyo can reach Busan via the tunnel and travel across the Korean Peninsula. If trains can cross borders and connect with the Trans-Siberian Railway, North Korea will predictably become an ordinary nation.

Peace will not visit us if nothing is done. Only efforts will bring peace. The opening of North Korea is anticipated with the introduction of pipelines and railways. Although it would want foreign currency as transit charges, North Korea would not welcome the plan automatically because it may eventually lead to the collapse of their national order. The other countries involved need to recognize this concern and acknowledge it so that conditions can be negotiated where North Korea opens its border with little worry. Moreover, it is necessary to maintain a long-range view that the opening and reform of North Korea will contribute to peace and stabilization in northeast Asia.

Although there is no official agreement regarding the construction of a Japan-Korea tunnel, the dialog beginning with President Roh Tae-woo in 1990 and continuing with successive presidents of South Korea and the various prime ministers of Japan has been ongoing as to the need for such a tunnel. It has been the subject of numerous international conferences. Meanwhile, there remains the problem of historical suspicions and emotional legacies from the past, which must be resolved by the citizens of both countries who are willing to move into the future. The goal at this point is to build a joint research and investigation system based on an agreement between both governments.

The Seikan Tunnel, the Channel Tunnel, the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line and many other undersea tunnels have been constructed and operated successfully, and which provide useful reference points for the construction of a Japan-Korea tunnel. The techniques of construction and operation have been improved by ongoing research, making such construction safer, more practical and economical. Steady progress is in sight.

Construction costs are estimated to be 10 trillion yen and construction time approximately ten years. However, research indicates the possibility of a reduction in cost and time with the development of new techniques.

Although the immediate goal of a Japan-Korea Tunnel is interlinked economic exchange between Japan and Korea, the ultimate goal is creating a way to enhance mutual coexistence and prosperity. The opening of the tunnel will encourage tourism between countries, bringing more cultural and economic exchanges, mutual understanding and common values. Relationships as good neighbors will improve if there is sincere exchange and communication between citizens of both countries through use of the tunnel. It is essential that estimates of construction cost consider not only economic benefits but also benefits in terms of peace and welfare for the entire region.

It is hoped the Japan-Korea Tunnel vision will become a real impetus toward building a new and positive Japan-Korea relationship in the 21st century. The vision of a Japan-Korea Tunnel is now changing from a mere dream to a vision and now to detailed planning for its realization. Connecting Japan and Korea, the tunnel will contribute to the peace and stabilization of the Korean Peninsula and to the realization of a true East Asian community.

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