Special Lecture #4.
Shaping the Roads for the Future – The Korean Expressway Corporation
Hong Wei LOW (2023 GMPA)
I am embarked on numerous road trips across Korea, exploring its enchanting cities like Namhae and Yeosu in the South, and discovering the soul-rejuvenating beauty of Gangwha-do in Incheon. While I have benefited from the seamless connectivity that the expressways and bridges provide, it never occurred to me to delve into the intricate processes behind their design, construction, operation, and maintenance. These remarkable endeavors - as I learned from the sharing by Mr. Jin-Gyu Ham, CEO of Korean Expressway Corporation (KEC) - were a result of KEC's efforts since 1969 to provide a safe and convenient platform for future mobility.
Mr. Ham's enlightening presentation on November 30, 2023, was part of a series of special lectures for master's students, primarily public officers from around the globe, attending the Global Masters in Public Administration (GMPA) at Seoul National University (SNU) (see Figure 1). In his concise yet informative session, Mr. Ham shed light on KEC's pivotal role in developing Korea's expressways and bridges, emphasizing the organization's investment across the entire value chain - from design and construction to traffic management, toll collection, service areas, and research and development to meet the demands of future mobility.
Special Lecture on the KEC by Mr. Ham
KEC plays a vital role in providing physical connectivity for the people and businesses in Korea, boasting an extensive 4,271 km road network that caters to an average of 4.85 million road users daily. Despite this monumental task, KEC has consistently demonstrated excellence, receiving the highest ranking in the government's internal evaluation of its agencies. According to Mr. Ham, this success is attributed to clear management priorities, focusing on public safety, leading future road transportation, maintaining a clean corporate culture, and providing customer-centric service innovation.
An exemplary illustration of KEC's customer-centric approach is in its design of the expressway and bridge network. The organization challenged itself to enable users to access its network within 30 minutes from anywhere in the country and accomplished it through its 10 × 10 + 6R2 National Arterial Road Network Scheme. This innovative scheme connects all parts of Korea through 10 key axes linking the east to the west, 10 axes connecting the north to the south, and 6 radial nodes around key metropolitan cities (see Figure 2). Further examples of KEC's commitment to provide a seamless road experience for its users include real-time traffic notifications, non-stop multi-lane toll collection through Hi-pass, and more efficient road paving technologies to reduce the downtime.
10 × 10 + 6R2 National Arterial Road Network Scheme (Source: KEC)
KEC is also pushing the innovation fronts in the areas of road and transportation. Projects such as the Godeok Grand Bridge, which is the world's longest concrete cable-stayed bridge, and the Hangang Tunnel, which is Korea's first road tunnel under the Han River, are a testament of KEC's cutting-edge engineering abilities. KEC has also moved away from traditional labor-intensive means to manage infrastructure and currently utilizes drones to inspect its bridges. These innovation fronts were made possible through the cultivation and nurturing of in-house expertise at the KEC's Research Institute (KECRI).
KEC is also working to transform service areas into must-go places for its users. It continuously enhances the quality of offerings (e.g. higher-quality food and merchandise) and also ensures that its service areas are up-to-date with mobility advancements (e.g. providing charging stations for eco-friendly cars). Mr. Ham also shared that KEC is now providing leisure and cultural activities at the service areas, such as a drone soccer field, pet parks, and a glamping zone. It also has added an Urban Air Mobility (UAM) experience center at one of its service stops to facilitate road users to experience and understand future mobility options.
Having amassed a huge amount of knowledge on road infrastructure and seeing the benefits that good physical connectivity brings to the country, Mr. Ham expressed KEC's eagerness to share its competencies with other countries, particularly the developing countries to facilitate a technological leap in their road infrastructure development. Currently, KEC is involved in 202 projects across 41 countries, including Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Algeria, and Mauritius, where it shares its cutting-edge technologies in designing expressways and bridges, along with expertise in project management and road maintenance. The organization aims to further expand its overseas ventures by achieving a cumulative revenue of USD 1 billion by 2025 and developing 1,000 km of overseas roads by 2030.
In closing, Mr. Ham outlined KEC's forward-looking initiatives in alignment with the 4th industrial revolution. These include envisioning a future where medical aid is provided through drone ambulances and where K-MaaS (Mobility as a Service) integrates diverse transport systems into a single platform. He also extended a warm invitation to GMPA students for a site visit to witness ﬁrsthand the engineering marvels behind the expressways and bridges.
In reﬂecting on Mr. Ham's insightful presentation and KEC’s remarkable work, my perspective on road infrastructure and its impact has undergone a profound transformation. Mr. Ham’s sharing not only deepened my appreciation for the engineering marvels behind the construction of expressways and bridges, but also highlighted KEC's unwavering commitment to providing safe, eﬃcient, and innovative road networks. As road users, we are beneﬁciaries of KEC's dedication to connectivity, and we experience not just smooth travel but a comprehensive and thoughtful approach that enhances our overall journey. It is not an exaggeration to say that KEC is shaping the roads for the future.