The Korean government is to start construction of the Seoul-Incheon Canal in March at a cost of WON 2.25 trillion (US$ 2 billion), according to local media reports.

The 18 km-long, 80 m-wide, 6.3 m-deep canal, which will link the Han River to the West Sea canal, is expected to take 33 months to construct. The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs was quoted as saying construction of other major facilities, such as bridges and locks, will start in June.

Initially the canal will allow 4000 tonne-class ships to carry cargo straight to Gangseo-gu, Seoul.

By 2012 larger cargo ships and ferry services connecting Yongsan in the centre of the country with Chinese ports will be possible.

The canal was originally proposed in 1995. However, protests by environmental groups led to its cancellation. The current administration revived the plan in September last year following a feasibility study by the Korea Development Institute.

The canal, which is 20 m narrower than was originally planned, is expected to create 25000 new jobs.

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