Tunnel Dreams: Linking Korea and Japan

The Construction and Economy Research Institute of Korea, an industry mouthpiece, is again raising an age-old dream of Korea’s construction industry, a 235-km tunnel linking Korea and Japan. The thrust of the ambition is economic. The construction industry was responsible for a full 20 percent of South Korean gross domestic product prior to the financial crisis of 2008. By last year it had shrunk to less than half of that amount. If anything, Japan depends even more on its construction industry, which in past decades formed an alliance with the country's political parties, building bridges and roads to nowhere and airports in tiny towns. Fiscal stimulus package funds routinely found their way to public works projects until 2010, when concern over the country's massive public debt led to a 20 percent cut in their subsidies.

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