China’s Extensive Belt & Road in South Korea
China’s Extensive Belt & Road in South Korea By Current Affairs Correspondent East Asia for Belt and Road
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When discussing China’s Belt & Road Initiative, often nothing is shown on the map for South Korea in major press reporting; however, China’s Belt & Road Initiative projects are active and wide-spread in South Korea.
South Korea developed extensive infrastructure decades before China, thus China is not building roads and bridges in an infrastructure poor country. Instead, China is building enclaves, some of them massive in South Korea.
A Massive Chinatown is being built in a large area in Chuncheon City & Hongcheon County in Gangwon Province (East of Seoul) as part of China’s Belt & Road Initiative.
The land area of this “China Cultural Complex Town” is 1,200,000 square meters (=129,166,923 square ft = 297 acres = 168 soccer fields), which is inside the La Vie Belle Tourism Zone. It is 10 times larger than the Chinatown in Incheon, where the oldest Chinatown (only one in South Korea for decades until recently) is located; it has expanded greatly in the last decade or so.
According to the Gangwon Provincial Office, Governor Choi Moon-soon went to Beijing to attend the launching ceremony of the Chinese Cultural Complex Town creation project, and on December 6, 2018, signed an agreement with Kolon Global Co., Internal & External Residents Co., and Korea Wushu Association to build a Chinese Cultural Complex Town in Gangwon Province.
The estimated project cost is ₩600,000,000,000 (~$90 million), and the Internal and External Residents Company is to raise funds, and Chinese capital will likely play a key role. This is in line with China’s Belt & Road deals, which involve China lending vast amounts of money to other countries for ventures and infrastructure projects.
Governor Choi Moon-soon is in the ruling party, the Deobureo Minjoo Party (Democratic Party of Korea), which has signed an MOU with the CCP. Choi has stated he is “glad to attend the meaningful ceremony officially announcing the “China Cultural Complex Town,” China’s only “One Belt One Road” project in South Korea” it turns out there are more and described the Chinatown as “a little China in Gangwon Province, the Republic of Korea.”
Although the South Korean government has not officially stated it is participating in the “One Belt One Road” project, the Chinese official website on One Belt One Road stated it as such as well. Choi will provide licensing, visas, and other administrative support for the project. The governor’s office expects increased Tourism.
National Security Experts, however, are expressing strategic and security concerns. Less than 10 minutes away are numerous military installations, including one for the 11th Division (Reserves).
Professor Park Hui-rak stated there are reserve forces in Hongcheon, and these reserve forces are even more important than the active duty in some ways, and he expressed concern that a country that views South Korea as a vassal state is so near the military facilities and forces important to South Korea’s National Security.
Nearby is also one of the key combined training ranges for the South Korean and U.S. militaries. Many local residents were not aware that such a huge Chinatown is being built in the Region.
In addition to the “China Cultural Complex Town,” a 15-story luxury hotel for Chinese tourists is also under construction in Jungdo (Middle Island), a different part of Chuncheon City. This is at a historical site where they discovered over 10,000 historical artifacts, making it one of the world’s largest prehistoric artifact sites.
Gangwon Province pressed ahead with the construction, despite the opposition of the civil society organisations for preserving artifacts and the site.Kim Jong-moon, the representative from Chuncheon Jungdo Prehistoric Artifacts Preservation Headquarters, expressed yet another concern–China’s attempt to rewrite the history of the neighbours with its Northeast Asia Project, which covers Manchuria and northern Korea with a claim of a multi ethnic unified state of greater China.
With China’s claim over Gojoseon (ancient Joseon), Goguryeo (prior to Koryo, from where the name “Korea” was derived), and Balhae as part of its history, it sparked a conflict between South Korea and China in the early 2000s. Mr. Kim said the prehistoric artifacts in Chuncheon destroy China’s claim that ancient Korea was part of Chinese history, and by creating a China Cultural Complex Town in Chuncheon City and Hongcheon Country, China completes its invasion of history.
Chinatown in Jindo
The China Cultural Complex Town in Chuncheon and Hongcheon are not the only Belt & Road Initiative projects of China in South Korea. Even more massive is the Chinatown under construction in Jindo (Jin Island), South Jeolla Province. Jindo, with a population of 30,000, is South Korea’s third largest island connected to the Southwestern tip of the peninsula by a bridge, and is across the strait from Jeju Island, where there also are numerous Chinatown’s.