President Moon Jae-in (center) sits in a subway train traveling from Ulsan to Busan as part of attending an event held Tuesday to celebrate the opening of 142.2 kilometers of new subway lines spanning across southeastern parts of the country. (Yonhap)
South Korea opened its first-ever hyper-regional light rail network outside the capital region, celebrating the opening of 142.2 kilometers of new subway lines in southeastern parts of the country.
President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday visited Taehwagang Station in Ulsan to attend the opening ceremony of four new light rail lines spanning across the North and South Gyeongsang provinces, as well as Ulsan and Busan. The president himself took the train from Taehwagang Station to Ilgwang Station in Busan.
Moon was accompanied by major figures from the region including North Gyeongsang Province Gov. Lee Cheol-woo, Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho, Busan Mayor Park Heong-joon and Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin. He was briefed on the construction by Transport Minister Noh Hyun-wook.
The Tuesday opening was to have light rail trains make 100 trips per day from Ulsan to Busan, Cheong Wa Dae said.
The new network will allow people to travel from Taehwagang Station to Ilgwang Station in 37 minutes and to Bujeon Station in 76 minutes.
Until Tuesday, having a transregional network was a unique benefit for those living in and around Seoul.
In an address made for the event, Moon emphasized that the new subway line will greatly aid his government’s initiative on achieving balanced regional growth by granting greater ease of logistics and movements in southeastern parts of the country.
If connected as a single economic hub, North and South Gyeongsang provinces could reach 490 trillion won ($412 billion) in economic value with 10 million residents, Moon said, according to his office, adding that the new subway network is a first step in helping the region become a megacity.
The region is also preparing to open another set of subway tracks across its cities in 2023. South Gyeongsang Province is waiting to open a new airport in 2029 as scheduled, and Moon added that he would promote similar projects in other regions of South Korea to continue on with his government’s aim for balanced growth.
The presidential office added the railway could later be part of a transnational railroad connected with railways in Manchuria in China and Russia’s Siberia. The transnational railway vision has long been a traditional hope of South Korea in engaging in peace talks with North Korea.
Moon has envisioned eventually building a transnational railway network spanning from South Korea to Europe with cooperation from China, Russia, Mongolia, Japan and the United States. The network would greatly reduce the time needed for logistics while stimulating tourism, he believes.
The presidential office added the new network is also expected to help South Korea meet its carbon neutrality goals, as the country increases use of eco-friendly trains.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org