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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Focus > April 1997 > Innovative Technologies Draw South Korean Engineers to FHWA
April 1997Publication Number: FHWA-SA-97-022

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Innovative Technologies Draw South Korean Engineers to FHWA

Since February, two highway engineers from the Korea Highway Corporation (KHC) have been serving as loaned staff members at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in Washington, D.C. Their goal: to learn about promising new highway technologies.

South Korea's economy has grown steadily since the 1970s, producing a sharp increase in traffic. Between 1988 and 1995, traffic on the country's expressways tripled, increasing to 44,000 vehicles per day from 15,000 vehicles per day. As a result, KHC is intent on:

  • Repairing aging pavements.
  • Expanding existing expressways.
  • Increasing the expressways network from today's 1,800 km (1,100 mi) to 6,000 km (3,700 mi) by 2011.

Youn-hwa Choi, director of KHC's construction department, came to the United States primarily to learn about the management and repair of portland cement concrete pavements, which have been used extensively in South Korea since the early 1980s, when asphalt pavements began showing rutting problems. Since arriving at FHWA, Choi has learned that the Superpave system could solve many of South Korea's rutting problems. The new asphalt mix design system would allow KHC to develop rut-resistant mixes for use in pavement rehabilitation and construction. Choi plans to introduce KHC management to the Superpave system and its potential benefits for South Korea's highways.

Choi will spend 6 months at FHWA's Pavement Division and 6 months visiting project sites and working with State highway agencies. He will also participate in training sessions, such as the National Highway Institute course on Superpave mix design.

Jong-hwan Bae of KHC's highway research center is the other engineer on loan to FHWA. During his 1-year stay in the United States, Bae will learn about innovations in bridge and tunnel construction and maintenance. These innovative technologies are particularly important in South Korea, where 73 percent of the land is mountainous. Bae will divide his time between FHWA's Bridge Division and field inspections.

Both Choi and Bae strongly recommend the loaned staff program to other countries. "The United States has the highest level of highway technology in the world," Choi says. "People at FHWA have been very kind and have shown great hospitality."

Choi and Bae's visit to the United States is part of a broader effort to assist South Korea and to form close ties between the highway industries in the United States and in South Korea. For example, FHWA and the South Korean Bureau of Public Roads, which oversees KHC, organize annual symposiums on highway issues. Later this year, a team of U.S. engineers will visit bridge projects in South Korea to learn about innovations in bridge design and construction. This partnership helps South Korea develop its highway system, creates opportunities for U.S. firms, and fosters the exchange of technology between the two countries.

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Updated: 04/07/2011

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