Former Korean-American Congressman offers monorail DMZ tour

By Kim Tae-gyu

The first ethnic Korean who was elected to the United States Congress has proposed a mega-sized tourism project involving the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), or the heavily-fortified border that separates the two Koreas.

Jay Kim, the 71-year-old first-generation Korean American who was elected to the House of Representatives in 1992 and re-elected twice more through 1999, said that he had made the proposal to Gyeonggi Province.

“At the request of Gyeonggi Province, I examined the DMZ this week in order to come up with plausible plans of converting the unique zone into a tourism attraction,’’ Kim told The Korea Times in an interview on Thursday.

“I think that we will be able to set up an elevated monorail just outside the DMZ so that tourists can overlook the buffer zone between the two Koreas. Many would love to see the sights.’’

Kim said that the monorail-based train could start at Imgingak, the scenic resort with a pavilion situated in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, about an hour from Seoul.

“The project would not cost that much. The monorail system would be constructed above ground and six trains would be sufficient to run the course every 30 minutes,’’ said Kim who immigrated to the U.S. in 1961.

“Toward that end, we need the support of the central government since this project may have something to do with national security. I already met a high-ranking official of Cheong Wa Dae to ask for cooperation.’’

Kim expected that the DMZ tour would become one of the foremost tourism assets of Korea down the road.

Asked about the ongoing negotiations on the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA), Kim contended that both sides should compromise to ratify the trade deal, which was signed in 2006.

Currently, the two countries are at odds over the issues of vehicles and beef _ the U.S. complains that Korea does not import enough U.S. vehicles and wants Korea to import American beef regardless of the age of cattle.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, imports U.S. beef products from cattle less than 30 months old due to concerns about mad cow disease.

“Both will be able to find a happy medium in the beef case. For example, Korea may import U.S. beef from just young cattle for the time being until its consumption of U.S. beef reaches a preset benchmark,’’ Kim said.

“Also, the Seoul administration may purchase approximately 3,000 U.S. vehicles, let’s say from Ford, to use them as official cars. The proposal would be too good an offer for the U.S. to refuse.’’

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