[LETTERS to the editor]Harnessing the Han

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[LETTERS to the editor]Harnessing the Han

The possibility of joint development along the Han River has become higher than ever after a successful inter-Korean summit. The presidential candidates of the Grand National Party and the United New Democratic Party have also prepared plans to either develop the Han River estuary or build a great canal linked with the river.
Lee Myung-bak, the GNP candidate, has set plans for an artificial island with an area of about 900 million pyeong (735 acres) near Ganghwa Island, located where the Han River and the West Sea meet.
Lee Hae-chan, one of three candidates for the UNDP presidential nomination, wants to use the sand accumulating where the Han and Imjin rivers meet. He believes this will prevent floods. He also claims that his government will bring down transportation costs by linking Kaesong and the Paldang area to the east of the Han River, just outside of Seoul with a canal.
The two, however, don’t have much of a clue about the Han River.
The Han has a difference of about 10 meters (32.9 feet) between high and low tides. One is only concerned about the overflow of the river during high tide and the other is only interested about the tideland.
The Han River’s drainage area is 26,018 square kilometers. Rain water from about 17.4 percent of the entire Korean territory is concentrated on this area through the Han, Imjin and Yaeseong rivers, and about 70 percent of it comes during the monsoon season. Water is as important a resource as oil. With a sea wall, the freshwater saved can be used for industry and a large tideland can be made. Good quality earth and sand can be collected, not to mention the basic function of preventing the overflow of rivers. However, artificial islands can cause overflows.
The potentials of the Han River’s mouth can be a starting place for Korea to become a new East Asian hub. The Korean Peninsula has to be the core of growth in the 2010s after Tokyo in the 1960s, Seoul in the 1970s, China’s Zhuhai in the 1980s, Shanghai in the 1990s and China’s Yellow River in the 2000s. The essentials of development of the Han River are not just preventing floods, gathering sand or an artificial island. It is how the potential can be optimized and how the area can become a hub.
With a sea wall, abundant water can be made accessible and enormous dry land created which would make an industrial complex, free trade zone, new cities and also a seaport possible. It is important that economic cooperation between the South and North develop these potentials and build stronger links with China and Japan. What is important is to have a new economic structure from the cooperation and logical consideration between North and South. Don’t go into development in haste. Joint research is most urgently needed.
Kim Kwang-nam, president,
Research Institute for the Construction Business
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