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Superhighway with no speed limit planned for South Jeolla Province

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : March 14, 2024 - 15:54

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A motorway (123rf) A motorway (123rf)

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Thursday reaffirmed his commitment to introducing a 47-kilometer superhighway with no speed limit in South Jeolla Province worth 2.6 trillion won ($1.97 billion), in a bid to construct a "Korean-style Autobahn."

The new highway will connect the city of Gwangju with the Korea International Circuit in Yeongam-gun, South Jeolla Province, enabling cars to operate at speeds above 200 kilometers per hour along its 47-kilometer length.

Yoon said his conservative administration will "launch a preliminary study this year" to map out the road construction plan. The superhighway will not only boost regional tourism but also serve as a test bed for autonomous cars, according to the president.

"The new road will draw more visitors at home and from abroad, stimulating tourism in South Jeolla Province. Also, automakers dedicated to futuristic autonomous driving cars will be able to use the highway as the test bed," Yoon told some 100 people who took part in the president's 20th policy debate session, in Muan-gun, South Jeolla Province.

"The new transport infrastructure will kill two birds with one stone, helping (South Jeolla Province) achieve goals in both tourism and business."

South Jeolla Province has sought to put the plan into action to shorten the travel time between Gwangju and the nation's southwestern coast from 70 minutes to 20 minutes. The province aims to include the plan in its five-year plan for the 2026-2030 period and hopes to begin construction as early as 2036.

In October 2023, Yoon reportedly told South Jeolla Province Gov. Kim Yung-rok that he would keep close tabs on the superhighway plan as he learned more about the project, in the hopes that the road could become a self-driving test bed.

The highway is also part of the infrastructure plans laid out during Yoon's visit to the region, along with a 1.6 trillion won plan to build a 39-kilometer highway connecting Wando-gun and Gangjin-gun, and a 180-kilometer high-speed railway construction plan connecting Iksan and Yeosu.

"Transport infrastructure is key to enabling day trips to anywhere within South Jeolla Province and boosting coordinated regional economic development there," Yoon said.

President Yoon Suk Yeol (left, front) attends the 20th policy debate held in Muan-gun, South Jeolla Province, on Thursday,. (Pool photo via Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (left, front) attends the 20th policy debate held in Muan-gun, South Jeolla Province, on Thursday,. (Pool photo via Yonhap)

The Yoon administration also renewed its pledge to push forward with a 1.3 trillion-won plan until 2033 to develop hundreds of tourist spots across the province, as well as a 39 billion-won scheme to establish an animation industry cluster in Suncheon.

Yoon also renewed his pledge to turn Goheung into a hub for the domestic space industry and accelerate the automation of the Port of Gwangyang and the adoption of domestically produced equipment there.

As for the protection of fishers' livelihoods, Yoon said South Korea will continue to remove Chinese fishing equipment from South Korea's exclusive economic zones, or waters extending 200 nautical miles beyond the nation's territorial sea, to ward off illegal fishing activities.

The plans were revealed during President Yoon's 20th policy debate -- sessions which he has presided over since January. It was the first policy debate held in the region, which is considered a stronghold for the liberal opposition bloc.

South Jeolla Province has 10 constituencies, all occupied by lawmakers representing the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea. Yoon first visited the province as president in April 2023 to celebrate the Suncheon Bay International Garden Expo 2023, nearly a year after Yoon was inaugurated.