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[Opinion] KTX and Regional Unity

Posted April. 14, 2004 22:07,   


If you take the Skinkansen bullet train at Tokyo station in Japan, you will reach Shinosaka station in two hours and 38 minutes. The Korean Train Express (KTX) also takes two hours and 40 minutes from Seoul to Busan alike. Considering that the distance covered by Shinkansen is 552 km, which is longer than Seoul to Busan (approximately 420 km), Shinkansen is a cut above KTX. In terms of “the quality of service,” KTX is far beyond. Shinkansen hardly delays its schedule unless natural disasters such as earthquakes take place. Instead, the fare of Shinkansen, which is 14,050 yen (apprx. 140,000 won, one-way trip, standard class), is three times more expensive than that of KTX (45,000 won).

--The Shinkansen celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

In 1964, when the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo, the first bullet train in the world started to run between Tokyo and Osaka at 200km per hour, and has connected the whole of Japan like a cobweb since then. Every morning, the platform of Shinkansen in Tokyo station is crowded with businessmen. They eat their lunch on the train, do business in the afternoon and return home at night, which has become a paradigm for companies. Thanks to the Shinkansen, Toyota, Matsushita, Sanyo and other large companies who launched their businesses in Osaka or Nagoya decided not to move their headquarters to Tokyo and remained local companies.

Due to negative national sentiment, the Shinkansen was left out earlier and the French TGV eventually won the bidding to be the Korean high-speed train. Japanese companies had regretted that they lost a good opportunity because of historical conflicts between the two nations, even though the Korean geographical features fit well to Shinkansen. The Japanese government and private companies are now making every effort to receive the contract for China’s Beijing-Shanghai bullet train. They promised to transfer their key technology in order to win the favor of China, but become very disappointed at the worsening relationship between China and Japan.

The April 15 election is the first general election since the opening of high-speed railroad. The advantage of the bullet train is a positive effect to the nation’s economy, but its role of connecting regions into “one-day zones” and contributing to local unity are equally important. Will KTX be able to demolish years of heavy walls between regions even a little? Otherwise, shall we put off our expectations until the next election because the train just started 15 days ago? Please KTX, run as much as you can.

Park Won-Jae, Correspondent in Tokyo, parkwj@donga.com