This was the title of a Yahoo article I read at about the same time as this one:
While at university I worked at a Welland Canal (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway) museum. Add that to my being a fairly rabid nationalist (Quebec is fine - those damn Bloc Quebecios) and my living in Korea and these articles obviously resonate with me.
About the Korean Canal (The Kyoungbu Canal). The Seoul mayor, apparently as part of a possible presidential candidacy, has been talking up a canal from the Han River to the Nakdong River, connecting Seoul with Pusan by water.
Of course, Seoul and Pusan are already connected by water in a mostly free waterway. The Han and especially the mouth opening into the Yellow Sea might need dredging but that's nothing compared to what the upper reaches of the Han will need.
I am getting ahead ofmyself here. Clearly, I don't like the idea of a Han-Nakdong Canal. I didn't start that way. I admit that as soon as I read the Bloc wanted control of the seaway, I immediately was opposed; that was a gut-instinct, predudice kind of thing. In the case of the Korean Canal, I put really thought into making my opinion although I didn't think that long about it. It just seems such a bad idea upon very short reflection.
Well, lets compare a few canals. I am most familiar with the St. Lawrence Seaway but the Panama Canal is probably the best one to compare to the Proposed Korean one.
First, in terms of speed and size of cargo; the St. Lawrence Seaway is really only profitable for very large cargoes.:
The St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes are thus mainly
used to ship heavy raw materials and limited general cargo traffic occurs past Montreal (a major container port). One of the main reason behind such a characteristic is that general cargo is now shipped through containers and that the railway system is faster to ship containers to eastern and western seaboard
ports than transporting containers through the Seaway. For instance, it takes a little more than 24 hours to transit a container by rail from Chicago to Montreal, while this operation would take around one week through the Great Lakes and the Seaway.
Ships going through canals are always going to be slower than cargo trains and most of Korea's large cargoes are either imported or exported; is there much in the way of heavy ore or multi kilotons of rice that needs to be shipped from Seoul to Pusan?
So, while not being an economist, I don't see how the economies of scale would benefit people using an inland waterway.
Panama is a good comparison for the Kyoungbu as both Canals climb to some significant altitude before descending on the other side. Panama has a natural lake that is used to proivde water at the highest elevations while Korea is not naturally blessed with abundant water for such projects. Where will the water come from?
From the Times:
Lee had deliberately commented on his plans to build a canal
that connects the Han River, flowing through Seoul and the metropolitan area,
and the Naktong River, which flows into the Korea Strait near the southernmost
port of Pusan. He first introduced the idea for the ``Kyongbu Canal’’ as a
lawmaker in 1996.
``The southern part of the Han River and the
upper part of the Naktong River is only 20 kilometers apart. If we are able to
connect Seoul and Pusan through an inner-country waterway, it will cut one-third
of logistics costs and help the economy by creating more jobs and balancing
regional development,’’ Lee said during a breakfast meeting last week arranged
by the Kwanhun Club, an organization of senior journalists.
I have not yet looked at a map but the two rivers come closest in Gangwondo and 20 kilometers can be a long way in such mountainous terrain. Panama had malaria as one of it's biggest challenges but it's mountain pass and the St. Lawrence's escarpment pale in comparison to the mountains in Gangwon for building a canal.
We need to remember that Seoul is the political capital and the economic capital but it is not the industrial capital. Again, what needs to be transported from seoul that needs ships?
Jobs will certainly be created and the country that is already number 7 in the world for total numbers of dams will jump a few rungs to build the canal and Korea's last natural area will be covered in cement for a canal with no real purpose.
Finally, Quebec never owned the seaway the Bloc wants to 'regain'. It was built with Canadian and American money and while I think of it as Canadian, it does, I guess, belong to both countries and not to a single province. I don't know if threatening the Bloc is a worthy way to maintain ties with the province they think they represent but they need to remember that if Canada is segmentable, maybe that means Quebec is too and southern Quebec (where the canal lies) is pretty strongly nationalist.
The story of the canal is a part of the history of my country; it shares that honor with the railways that also worked to link the giant nation together and I have to admit my irrational dislike of the Bloc is strengthened by their grandstanding on a national symbol.
UPDATE: GI Korea is also discussing the Kyoungbu canal and that's where the discussion seems to be. He posts every day; must be a military discipline thing. Anyway, he gets more hits and more comments than I do.