Undersea tunnel project being revived

30 July 2013

The government of South Jeolla Province has resumed the review of a plan to build an underwater tunnel for the KTX bullet train between the port city of Mokpo and Jeju island.

On 19 June 2013, the provincial government requested the central government for KRW 10bn as part of the 2014 fiscal year budget for studying and planning for the proposed Mokpo-Jeju underwater tunnel. It will hold an international symposium on the tunnel by next year.

The total length of the high-speed railway is 167km, including a 66km surface interval from Mokpo to Haenam, a 28km bridge section from Haenam to Bogil Island, and a 73km stretch from Bogil Island to Chuja Island and Jeju Island. The total cost is estimated at KRW 14.6tn (USD 10.3bn), with 11 years to complete.

Once the railway is completed, the provincial government reckons, as many as 15 million passengers will take advantage of the service in a year, with an annual savings of KRW 42tn in social cost and 140,000 newly created jobs.

The idea of connecting the southwestern port city with Korea's largest island in the south was first broached in 2007 by the governors of South Jeolla and Jeju provinces. At the time, however, the proposal was shelved because of the astronomical cost to build the world's longest underwater tunnel and technological challenge of digging the tunnel 160m below the water surface.