This is an ambitious proposal that would have the Honam Line extended not only past Mokpo to Haenam and Bogil-do, but clear to Jeju.
Korea Transport Institute, a government think-tank proposed an ambitious plan early January to extend KTX bullet train to Jeju, the largest island in Korea. To realize this grand vision, the institute says, it will need to build the longest underwater tunnel ever built in human history.
Two small islands-Bogildo and Chujado-located between the Peninsula and Jeju will provide convenient stepping stones for the Korean rail builder that will dig this grand underwater tunnel.
The institute says the constructor will first need to build a 28Km-long over-sea bridge connecting Haenam and Bogildo. The rest of the line will be completed by digging a 78Km long underwater tunnel down to Jeju using Chujado as a main drilling station.
If completed, Mokpo, the current terminal of Honam KTX line will be reborn as a departing station for the extended rail section, which will become the host of the longest underwater railway tunnel.
The article says if completed it would take 2 hours 26 minutes to get from Seoul to Jeju via the bullet train. A big problem is that this news comes right after we heard about how unsafe the existing KTX tracks are. An excerpt from a Chosun Ilbo editorial "KTX Is a Disaster Waiting to Happen":
Parts of the cement sleepers supporting the rails of the Daegu-Busan segment of the KTX high-speed train have developed cracks. If the sleepers, which support the weights of the trains and the rails, are damaged, then the rails themselves could twist, leading to catastrophic accidents as trains derail at speeds of 300 km/h. In other words, there are fatal safety flaws in the W7 trillion (US$1=W1,427) bullet train.
Out of around 153,000 sleepers that have been laid so far, 332 have developed cracks. And all of them pose dangers because all of the bolts that go into the sleepers have been discovered to be defective.
According to blueprints, waterproofing materials are supposed to be used to prevent water from seeping in between the bolts but they were not used, so the components absorbed rainwater, which expanded after freezing, causing the cracks to form. All 153,000 ties used the defective components, including the 332 that have developed cracks. So even those ties that seem to be in one piece could end up cracking any time.
Here's an interesting anecdote for you to chew on from Dave's; put as much stock in it as you want:
I was sitting in a bar with a friend in Itaewon speaking to this foreigner maybe three years ago. We started talking about what we were doing in Korea, and he says he's an engineer helping to build the KTX. This is a rough paraphrase of what he said:
That thing is a time bomb. Due to budget and time constraints, they're building it under specification. The tracks aren't made to handle those speeds. You'd never catch me riding that thing.
I can't remember the exact words, but he faulted the Korean side for the issues, citing their desperation to finish it as soon as possible, and at lowest budget.
And in other grand infrastructure news, there are renewed talks about a tunnel between South Korea and Japan.