[KS] Grand Korean Waterway

Afostercarter at aol.com Afostercarter at aol.com
Wed Aug 26 02:33:36 EDT 2009

Dear Dong-Hun Lee,
I hope the short article below may be some help to  you,
though it is a few months old and I claim no special  expertise.
Its scope is wider than the GKW alone. Are  you also 
covering the Four Rivers Restoration Project?
There must be far more in Korean, e.g. NoCanal.org  .
But even in English, and perhaps German, you can Google 
your way towards the experts and then  contact them.
For instance, I think the GKW's moving spirit,  professor
Yu Woo-ik, is now out of government and back at  SNU.
As to critics, some are mentioned here:
There is a lot of discussion not only in obvious  places
like OhMyNews or the Hankyoreh - for instance
(http://english.ohmynews.com/articleview/article_view.asp?menu=c10400&no=385405&rel_no=1)  or
- but also the mainstream right-wing  press, e.g.
In my own fairly limited research, I found  BirdsKorea.org
very helpful and well-argued. For instance:
- And just for you, they also have this in  German!
You'll find lots of other materials, links and contacts there  too.
I'm glad you are doing a feasibility study. The  government's
failure in that regard is, in my view, puzzling and  worrying.
Good luck!
Best wishes
Aidan FC
Aidan Foster-Carter 
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology  & Modern Korea, Leeds 
University, UK   
Flat 1, 40 Magdalen Road,  Exeter, Devon, EX2 4TE, England, UK 
T: (+44, no 0)    07970 741307 (mobile);   01392 257753       Skype: 
E: _afostercarter at aol.com_ (mailto:afostercarter at aol.com) ,   
_afostercarter at yahoo.com_ (mailto:afostercarter at yahoo.com)               W: 
_www.aidanfc.net_ (http://www.aidanfc.net) 
Draft Brief for Oxford Analytica  by Aidan Foster-Carter.                   
                                      Completed 17 May 2009

SOUTH KOREA: Rivers restoration project rekindles canal  controversy 

SUBJECT: The Lee Myung-bak administration’s  environmental infrastructure 
SIGNIFICANCE: Critics claim the government’s ideas are  environmentally 
unsound, and a ploy to resurrect the president’s dream of a  nationwide canal 
network via the back door. 
ANALYSIS: On April 27 President Lee  Myung-bak presided at the launch of an 
interim plan to upgrade South Korea’s  four major rivers: the Han, Nakdong, 
Geum and Yeongsan. This is to be finalized  by end-May, with work starting 
in September after the rainy  season. 
The four river restoration project (4RRP) is a core part  of a 50 trillion 
won (37 billion dollar) ‘Green New Deal’ announced earlier this  year. 
Costing 14 trillion won, the 4RRP aims to: 
* Provide more and better water. Two new dams and 13  reservoirs are to 
store an extra 1.25 billion cubic metres of fresh water by  2012. 
* This, and dredging the river beds, are also meant to  improve control of 
seasonal flooding. The latter has worsened since the 1970s,  possibly 
because of the effects of industrialisation. 
* Amenites will include 1,411 kilometres of new cycling  paths, sprucing up 
cultural relics near the river banks, and general riparian  beautification 
for leisure and tourism purposes.  
* It is hoped thereby to create some 190,000 jobs  directly and more 
indirectly, boosting local economies along the rivers and  contributing to more 
balanced regional development. 
* New photovoltaic and small hydropower plants on or near  the four rivers, 
as well as larger green spaces, are supposed to reduce carbon  emissions by 
100,000 tons annually. 
Canal redux? On February 26 prime  minister Han Seung-soo said “there 
should be no more controversy over this  project,” calling it “the backbone of 
our Green New Deal plan.”  
However, this has not silenced claims that the 4RRP is  essentially a 
covert bid to revive Lee Myung-bak’s pet project for a ‘Grand  Korean Waterway’ 
(GKW): a 540 kilometre cross-country canal linking Seoul to the  port of 
Busan in the southeast, costing 16 trillion won. 
Mountainous and densely populated, South Korea has high  logistics costs. 
But few experts supported the GKW, fearing rather a white  elephant and 
ecological harm. Yet Lee persisted,  until forced to drop the idea last June  
amidst a deepening political crisis caused by protests against US beef imports  
and complaints that he was riding roughshod over public opinion. 
Water shortage. Among the varied aims  of the 4RRP, water shortage is a 
growing problem. Though South Korea’s yearly  rainfall of 1,274 millimetres is 
30% above the global average, its dense  population means per capita water 
supply will fall to 1,199 cubic metres by  2025; the UN regards 2,000 as the 
safe minimum. Yet daily consumption per head  at 397 litres is the highest 
in OECD, suggesting a need for action at the demand  as well as the supply 
Protest. Environmental NGOs are  influential in South Korea. Their record 
* Holding up for several years construction of the  world’s longest seawall 
(see below). 
* Delaying the last section of the KTX high speed rail  link from Seoul to 
Busan, now set to open finally in 2010. On April 23 the  Supreme Court 
convicted Venerable Jiyu, a Buddhist nun, for obstructing this;  most famously in 
a 120-day hunger strike in 2005 against a planned 13 kilometre  tunnel near 
her monastery, said to threaten the habitat of a rare salamander.  
Green? Ecological NGOs are predictably  sceptical of the 4RRP and its green 
* Birds Korea (BK) claims that the plans to dredge rivers  and build dams, 
weirs and bicycle paths will breach obligations under the  Convention on 
Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention on wetlands, to  both of which 
South Korea is a signatory. 
* BK also argues that vegetated riverbanks, appropriately  supported, would 
be stronger and cheaper to maintain than concrete, as well as  more 
attractive for biodiversity and recreation. 
* Or again, silting and stagnation from dams will harm  rather than help 
water quality. Tap water potability has become a public concern  in recent 
years; bottled water sales have soared despite official insistence  that mains 
water is safe to drink. Water quality and quantity and flood control  alike 
would be better guaranteed by restoring natural flood-plain  wetlands. 
* Conversely, a construction-focused approach will  disturb and restrict 
water flows, destroy natural river beds and edges, reduce  biodiversity and 
risk long-term ecological damage. 
Bulldozer. Relatedly, critics query the  underlying perspective and 
priorities of this project: 
* President Lee is a former CEO of Hyundai’s construction  arm. Nicknamed ‘
bulldozer’, he is viewed as espousing an old-school view of  development as 
covering nature with concrete. 
* The construction sector, accounting for nearly 20% of  GDP, is suffering 
in the downturn. This affords an excuse for public works  projects as 
Keynesian stimulus, and for job creation. On this basis the 4RRP,  like the GKW 
before it, is popular in most of the localities affected, with  hopes of 
regeneration and new employment outweighing environmental  concerns. 
* In Lee’s favour, his controversial removal of a raised  motorway to 
restore a long-hidden stream while mayor of Seoul is now applauded  as much 
improving the capital’s amenities. 
Exempt? There is disquiet that no full  feasibility studies have been done. 
Indeed, a 1999 law mandating such a survey  for all projects costing over 
50 billion won was recently amended to exempt  works for “natural disaster 
prevention” – as the 4RRP is classified – from this.  
Canal reduced. Similar unease affects  another canal project, predating the 
GKW and still going ahead. On May 6  President Lee visited the site of the 
18 kilometre Gyeongin canal. By 2011 this  will connect the Han river in 
Seoul with the port of Incheon on the Yellow  (West) Sea for cargo ships of up 
to 4,000 tons. 
Conceived in the 1990s, this idea was abandoned five  years ago amid doubts 
that it could be economic. In 2003 the Board of Audit and  Inspection (BAI) 
criticised officials for fudging a cost-benefit analyis by the  Korea 
Development Institute (KDI) to make it look viable. Lee revived the 2  billion 
dollar project, but doubts persist and KDI’s study remains  unpublished. 
[Green growth. More broadly, on May 12  the Presidential Committee on Green 
Growth said 12.6 trillion won will be  invested by 2013 in green 
technologies, to create half a million jobs.  4.2 trillion won will be spent on  
Internet infrastructure, green IT products, and low-carbon transit systems,  
while R&D into other various green technologies, such as high-efficiency  solar 
batteries and hybrid vehicles, will receive 8.4 trillion  won.] 
Seawall saga. If precedent is any  guide, two relevant cases point in 
opposite directions: 
* Confounding early scepticism, upgrading of the Han  river in Seoul – 
initally for the 1988 Olympics – has been a success. The river  now is far 
cleaner and more attractive than before. 
* However, the main recent precedent for large-scale  nature-remaking is 
discouraging. At 33 kilometres, Saemangeum on the southwest  coast is the world
’s longest seawall, infilling an estuary and adding 400 square  kilometres 
of reclaimed land. This remains controversial: 
* Begun in 1991, the wall was not finished  till 2006. Environmentalists 
opposed it, saying it would destroy some of East  Asia’s most important 
wetlands, crucial for migratory birds. In 2007 the RSPB, a  British bird 
protection body, reported that seabirds were starving there. 
* Conceived mainly to boost and placate the neglected Jeolla region,  which 
complained at missing out on major development projects, Saemangeum’s  
precise purpose has never been agreed or clarified. Talk variously of industrial 
 or agricultural uses has come to little so  far. 
* Last year the area was designated a free economic zone (FEZ), again to  
no visible effect.  
* In March the central and provincial governments agreed to make Saemangeum 
a “model green vacation spot”, international tourist resort,  or even “a 
Korean Dubai”. This latest twist appears no better thought out, nor  more 
likely to succeed, than its many predecessors. 
CONCLUSION: Lee’s river restoration plan is ambitious and far-reaching.  
Confidence that it will actually achieve its diverse goals would be higher if  
feasibility studies had preceded it. If this goes ahead but proves to have  
little or negative impact, especially on the environment, this will only 
cement  the president’s reputation for bulldozing projects without 
consultation, and  could work against the ruling party in 2012’s presidential and 
parliamentary  elections. 

In a message dated 8/26/2009 05:04:58 GMT Standard Time,  
dong.lee at post.rwth-aachen.de writes:

Dear  list members,

maybe some of you can assist in my search:

I'm  currently writing my thesis about the Grand Korean Waterway which 
will be  a kind of feasibility report.

I don't know if there are any blueprints  (official ones) or stats or 
plans that deal about the canal (esp. Gyeongbu  Canal).
So far I checked kwoonha.com and mltm website (Statistical  yearbook), 
and a bunch of reports which are so far not really useful to  me.
My Problem is that although I'm a korean, I barely understand it since  I 
was born in Germany.

So if anyone has some english material about  that matter (reports, maps, 
detailed plans) I'd be very grateful. BTW: my  major is economic 
geography and the focus will be here on transport  geography.

If you have questions please mail.

Sincerely Dong-Hun  Lee

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://koreanstudies.com/pipermail/koreanstudies_koreanstudies.com/attachments/20090826/99dbb4ba/attachment.html>

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list