“THE BULLDOZER” IS ALREADY making headway. Not yet fully ushered into office, South Korea’s President-elect Lee Myung-bak is pushing his grand scheme: a canal over 300 miles long that would connect the nation’s two largest cities, spanning the length of the country. The fantastical plan comes with an estimated 16 billion dollar pricetag, and a cultural and environmental cost that is barely foreseeable.
This plan, which many say is lunacy, was apparently a bedrock of Lee’s presidential campaign (I must have missed that amid the scandal talk). It now seems ironic that Lee, Seoul’s former mayor, was largely elected because of his presumed ability to defibrillate the economy.
Lee’s pipe-dream defies logic. For one, he claims that the project – an absolutely massive undertaking – would not draw on public money. (The cost would supposedly be equalled by the sale of gravel and other dredged materials, which seems unrealistic.) Another obvious criticism is that Korea is already surrounded by water, and the port city of Incheon is less than an hour away from Seoul.
Lee says that the canal would stimulate inland economies, but I’m fairly convinced that it would do more to erode them by drastically changing the nature of local commerce. A development boom, as Lee would like to see happen, would also have adverse effects on local ecosystems. An argument for the canal on the part of sustainability is also bunk. Korea is already connected by railways, and since when did motor boats not take fuel?
The question that must be asked here is, simply, why? We could venture a few guesses: a vested interest in the construction industry, who would be perhaps the largest benefactor from such an endeavour? a stab at making the history books? Either way it’s hard to believe that Lee has at heart the best interests of Korea.
Photo: 청계천 강아지풀, by phploveme. seoul.