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Can you imagine travelling from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore within 2.5 hours?

Embassy of the Republic of Korea (Ambassador: H.E. Dr. Yu Hyun-seok) organized an appreciation event for the Korea Tourism Organization’s Korean Supporters (Power Bloggers) and Korean Embassy’s Online Supporters on Friday, 25th August 2017 at the KTX Showroom located inside NU Sentral Shopping Center.

The event comprised of various programs including briefing on Korea’s railway system, guided tour of KTX Showroom, video presentation of Korea’s tourism industry and demonstration of the KTX discount ticket applying service, lucky draw entry to win a return ticket to Korea, and award ceremony choosing the best KTX Showroom visitor feedback.

KTO Coupon Booklet introduced during the event offers various discount coupons such as Seoul subway pass and other various coupons which can be used during a trip to Korea. The booklet has been given out since March to Malaysians who are planning to visit Korea at Korea Plaza and KTX Showroom. One thousand pieces of 30% KTX discount coupons sponsored by the Korea Railroad Corporation since March 2017 received an overwhelming response from Malaysian visitors to Korea, and all coupons in the booklet ran out of stock just within 5 months.

The KTX Showroom where this event took place was launched in November 2015 to promote Korea’s HSR technology to Malaysian public with the aim to join the bid for KL-SG HSR project. At the showroom, visitors range in age from infants to senior citizens are able to gain in-debth understanding of Korea’s HSR technology through various audiovisual equipment such as high-tech displays and videos that provide insights into the latest railway technologies, 3D simulator and six seated 4D theatre that is aptly built into the shell of a high-speed railway locomotive.

Among the competitors of KL-SG HSR project, Korea is the only country which is continuously promoting its technology in a bid to join the project by operating a permanent exhibition hall. Since opening in November 2015, approximately 380 thousand visitors have visited the showroom so far and shown interest in Korea’s HSR.

During the event, Ambassador Yu said “Korea overcame numerous difficulties in the process of localizing foreign-adopted HSR technology in a very short term, and based on such experiences, I believe Korea can serve as an excellent role model for Malaysia.” “Korea will ensure long term development of Malaysia’s rail industry through government-oriented technology transfer and manpower training,” he added.

The Ambassador also mentioned that his recent Ambassadors MRT riding experience was very impressive and he looked forward to further breakthroughs in Kuala Lumpur’s traffic environment after MRT 2, 3 and KL-SG HSR are completed in the future. In particular, he emphasized that the rolling stock and depot facilities package for MRT 2 awarded to Hyundai Rotem is under smooth implementation and if Korea joins in KL-SG HSR project, it will benefit Malaysian citizens greatly in terms of technology, quality, safety and air quality compliance.

Photo : KTX

The Ambassador also attended Q&A session with the medias.

1) Some people are opposed to the construction of KL-SG HSR. Do you think this mega-sized project is really needed? 

Investment in transport infrastructure is very important as it serves as a country’s long-term growth driver. Of course, there can be different views about the method and timing of the investment. From my point of view, I think the construction of HSR is very timely for Malaysia to achieve Vision 2020 and I believe Malaysia will definitely benefit from this investment.

Compared to Korea which launched the HSR project in 1992, it is hard to say that Malaysia is not prepared for this project looking at its social-economic foundation. Korea also faced many political debates during the initial stage of HSR project and opposition voices rose too, mainly among the NGOs. Some said that we should scrap HSR and save costs by building new highways instead, and some suggested that we should just expand the existing railways.

However, nobody argued about the feasibility of HSR anymore after the HSR was completed, because the HSR has largely improved Korean people’s quality of life. HSR reduced people’s travel times to less than 2 hours, boosted the local economy surrounding the major railway station areas and largely strengthened the technology of related industries. That is why after the first Gyeongbu HSR was built, Korea continued to build more HSR links like the latest Honam HSR and it is now also looking to build faster trains. Based on Korea’s experience, I believe it is very timely for Malaysia to promote the HSR project and it will definitely serve as a momentum to contribute to Malaysia’s economic development.

2) How is Korea getting ready for the HSR project? What are the future plans? 

Korean Consortium for KL-SG HSR project was set up in October 2015 by the government investment body Korea Rail Network Authority (KRNA) and major private companies including Hyundai Rotem and Hyundai Construction. In July 2016, the consortium was restructured based on AssetsCo and InfraCo business model after the MoU between Malaysia and Singapore was announced. Currently, the consortium is working on the establishment of the optimized business model for KL-SG HSR project. The Korean consortium will be establishing a cooperation network with local companies to conduct detailed on-site study, device plan for technology transfer and financing ahead of the project bidding process.

3) Please tell us about Korean government’s intention towards this project. 

Korea has formed a consortium in October 2015 to join the KL-SG HSR project and so far it has been actively promoting its technology by organizing a number of technology exchange events with SPAD and MyHSR, and also opened this KTX Showroom in November 2015. So far, the Speaker of National Assembly, Minister and Vice Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport have expressed desire to join the bid for HSR during their visits to Malaysia. Since the tender will open in the 4 th quarter of this year, Korean government is now supporting to prepare for a competitive financial packages suitable for this project and set up the competitive grand HSR consortium by recruiting various global companies.

4) What are Korea’s advantages over other competitors? 

Although Korea’s HSR has relatively short history, we have our own advantages incomparable to other competitors. First of all, in 2014, Korean ranked first in the International Union of Railway’s performance assessment in both railway safety and an on-time performance rate. In particular, Korea is maintaining its reputation for safety and reliability of railway system with zero casualties recorded since the operation.

Moreover, Korea has recently secured an advanced train technology by developing the High-Speed Electric Multiple Unit(HEMU 430) which reaches a top speed of 430 km/h. As demonstrated by many Korean construction companies, Korea’s HSR has excellent quality and air-compliance capability, and world-class technology.

In terms of technology transfer, Korea developed HSR technology through government-oriented national R&D platform so it is able to transfer the technology more easily than other countries. As such, Korea is planning to create a distinguished and efficient business model based on its HSR experience and advantages. In terms of quality, air, safety and technology, I am confident that Korea’s HSR is the best choice for KL-SG HSR project.

5) Technology transfer, skilled-labour training, and job creation are major issues for Malaysia, what does Korea think about this?

Besides its importance as the mega transport infrastructure project, there are many important factors of HSR project which includes job creation, development of related industries, post-construction maintenance, local manpower training for cost optimization and etc.

When Korea launched the Gyeongbu HSR in 1992, Korea adopted France’s TGV technology and built the first section of the HSR. Ever since the launch of HSR, continuous efforts and investment were made by the government with the aim to build and operate HSR using its own technology. As the result, Korea managed to develop the Korean-type HSR and successfully constructed the second section of Gyeongbu HSR and the rest of the HSR projects with the optimized domestic technology. During this period, not only the train manufacturing technology was greatly enhanced, a significant leap was achieved in the entire railway industry.

KL-SG HSR Project has a significance as a project to build transport infrastructure, but at the same time, I think it is also very important in terms of providing opportunity for Malaysia to strengthen the related industries entirely. I believe this project will contribute greatly to Malaysia’s national economy through job creation in various sectors during the construction period.

If chosen, Korea will do its best to ensure optimization of project cost and job creation in state-of-the-art technology sectors through cooperation with local companies. In regard to technology transfer, Korea’s strength is that there are no legal and institutional difficulties to transfer the technology to Malaysia as Korea’s HSR technology development was initiated by the Korean government.

Based on the experiences of having difficulties during the adoption of overseas technology and localization, Korea understands the recipient country’s situation very well, and Korea would like to share the experience of technological self-reliance with Malaysia. As for the manpower training, the costs for training in a state-of-the-art technology field like HSR is very high. Rather than merely reducing the construction free, it is crucial to optimize the Life Cycle Cost of the entire HSR system. Korea has applied advanced IT technology to operation and maintenance of HSR, and project costs are optimized from the LCC perspective. Korea is reviewing various training and support programs to transfer HSR technology to Malaysia.

6) Korea has been running the KTX Showroom all this while, how is the response so far?

One and half years have passed since the KTX Showroom opened on 23rd November 2015. Unlike China and Japan showrooms which were only operated for a short term, Korea’s Showroom has been operating as a permanent establishment and the showroom has received a total of 350 thousand visitors so far with average 600 visitors per day. Other than general public, government officials from SPAD and MyHSR as well as foreign tourists have visited the showroom and learned about Korea’s HSR technology. I think that KTX Showroom has contributed to enhancing people’s awareness of Korea’s HSR and in addition to Korea’s positive image generated through K-pop and K-drama, such efforts could definitely lead to successful bidding of KL-SG HSR project.

Special thanks to KTX and Korea Tourism Organisation for the invitation.