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Special Bill for Daegu-Gwangju bullet train passed in National Assembly
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Special Bill for Daegu-Gwangju bullet train passed in National Assembly


A key project that will lead Daegu’s future-oriented growth alongside the Special Bill on Daegu Gyeongbuk New Integrated Airport


The Special Bill on the Construction of the Daegu-Gwangju Bullet Train, a long-held dream of the 18 million residents of Korea’s southeastern- and southwestern-most regions (in Korean, Yeongnam and Honam), was passed in the National Assembly on January 25 (Thu). This accomplishment, which occurred five months after the Special Bill was proposed on August 22, 2023 by 261 National Assembly members—the largest number to jointly propose a bill—has made official a project that was on the drawing board for three decades. Another important feature of the railway’s construction is that it has been exempted from a preliminary feasibility survey.


<Route of Daegu-Gwangju bullet railway>


<How the Special Bill was passed>


Discussions on the Special Bill began in April 2023, when Mayor Hong Joon-pyo and Gwangju Mayor Kang Ki-jeong agreed on the need for legal backing of the construction of a Daegu-Gwangju bullet railroad.


Initially, it was believed that the Special Bill, which has no outstanding points of contention and is fully supported by both ruling and opposition parties, would be passed quickly. Due to strong dissent from the Ministry of Strategy and Finance (MOEF) on the pre-feasibility survey exemption, however, the Special Bill was approved by the National Assembly’s Land Infrastructure and Transport Committee in December 2023, after which it was passed onto the January plenary session.


The flexible and close cooperation of Korea’s southernmost local governments (led by Daegu and Gwangju) made it possible to overcome the many obstacles on the path to enactment. To combat Gyeonggi region-centric arguments that the bullet train was a “populist” and unnecessary project, diverse sectors (e.g. media, commerce) and the general public came together in support of the Special Bill.


Mayors Hong and Kang issued two joint statements calling for the Special Bill’s enactment—something that can be partially attributed to Mayor Hong’s vigilant efforts to persuade reluctant ruling party members to support the proposal. Together with the Special Bill on the Daegu Gyeongbuk New Integrated Airport (DNIA), which was passed in 2023, Daegu Metropolitan City (DMC) has now completed the legal preparations needed to propel its next growth stage.


Mayors Hong Joon-pyo and Kang Ki-jeong celebrate Special Bill after it is passed in National Assembly


<Expected effects of enactment>


The Special Bill’s stipulation of the pre-feasibility survey exemption is expected to be a boon for construction, for which headway had been impossible thus far due to uncertainty surrounding the exemption.


The construction of the Daegu-Gwangju bullet railway is expected to induce KRW 7.3 trillion in manufacturing profit and KRW 2.3 trillion in added value as well as create approximately 38,000 jobs (source: A Study on the Construction of the Daegu-Gwangju Bullet Railway, Korea Transport Institute (Oct. 2020)).


The railway will, by enabling travel from Daegu to Gwangju in under 120 minutes and being linked to the DNIA, be capable of absorbing local demand for the transport of 5 million passengers and goods. By also linking cities and industrial complexes, the railway is expected to become the backbone of a cutting-edge southeast/western economic sphere by providing a streamlined shipping system.


Furthermore, the railway is significant because it is Korea’s first major east-west railway in a railway system that is Seoul-centric and overwhelmingly north-south. It is a physical symbol of the wearing down of the stark sociopolitical divide between Yeongnam and Honam that is expected to expedite the development of dilapidated/population-shrinking regions. By also expediting exchanges of tourism resources—specifically, the natural and history/culture resources that both Yeongnam and Honam have in abundance—the railway will contribute to balanced national development by alleviating the excessive concentration of resources in the Seoul/Gyeonggi-do area.


In addition to alleviating chronic regional conflict, the railway is expected to produce immeasurable social profit as well as short/long-term economic profit: namely, as a key item of infrastructure for efforts by Yeongnam and Honam to co-host the 2038 Asian Games.


<Post-enactment plans>


Based on the Special Bill, DMC will be quickly undertaking the administrative processes necessary to open the bullet railway in time for the opening of the DNIA in 2029.


Based on the pre-feasibility survey exemption and screening of the project plan, both of which will be confirmed by the end of the year, DMC has begun drawing up the latter. Through intensive investment over a short period, DMC will be minimizing the amount of time needed for construction and design.


Also, through negotiations with relevant central ministries (e.g. Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT), MOEF), the railway will be designed as a high-speed railway and in a way that allows for double-tracking—based on the central government’s advocacy of cutting-edge technologies.


Mayor Hong said, “The Special Bill on the Construction of the Daegu-Gwangju Bullet Train is a symbol of the coming together of Yeongnam and Honam as well as the ruling and opposition parties. It proves that the Korean people can overcome long-standing divisiveness for a shared goal. It also serves as a foundation for balanced regional development that offers a future for areas whose populations are shrinking too quickly. I am grateful to the National Assembly and the residents of Yeongnam and Honam who worked so hard for the Special Bill to be passed. We will be doing everything in our power for the timely construction of the Daegu-Gwangju bullet railway.”

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