Two Koreas start jour­ney to re­con­nect their rail­ways

‘Iron horse’ de­parts south for 18-day re­search trip

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

A South Korean train crossed into North Ko­rea on Fri­day for the first time in a decade – packed with engi­neers on a mis­sion to de­ter­mine how to up­grade the North’s two di­lap­i­dated rail­ways that cre­ate a linked, cross-border net­work.

An agree­ment to con­nect the rail­way sys­tems was made ear­lier this year in a key meet­ing be­tween North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the South’s Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in.

TV footage on Fri­day showed a red, white and blue train – dis­play­ing a ban­ner read­ing “Iron Horse is now run­ning to­ward the era of peace and pros­per­ity” – pull away from the South’s Do­rasan sta­tion, the near­est ter­mi­nal to the west­ern in­ter-Korean border.

“This sig­nals the start of co-pros­per­ity of the North and the South by re­con­nect­ing rail­ways,” Trans­port Min­is­ter Kim Hyun-mee said.

She added that re­con­nect­ing the rail­way would help ex­pand the coun- try’s “eco­nomic ter­ri­tory” over­land to Eura­sia, as the di­vided Korean penin­sula has left South Ko­rea with­out a land route to the con­ti­nent for many decades.

The six-car­riage train car­ried 28 South Kore­ans on­board in­clud­ing rail­way engi­neers and other per­son­nel. It was also car­ry­ing 55 tons of fuel and an elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tor.

There is a pas­sen­ger coach, a sleep­ing coach, an of­fice and a car­riage loaded with wa­ter for show­ers and laun­dry.

When it ar­rived at Pan­mun Sta­tion – the first North Korean ter­mi­nal across the border – the six car­riages were hooked to a North Korean train.

The South Kore­ans and their coun­ter­parts will live on the train, while they in­spect two rail­way lines – one link­ing the North’s south­ern­most Kaesong City to Sinuiju City near the Chi­nese border, and an­other line that con­nects Mount Kum­gang near the in­ter-Korean border to the Tu­men River bor­der­ing Rus­sia in the east. The in­spec­tion will last 18 days and they will travel some 2,600 kilo­me­ters by rail, the trans­port min­istry said.

Be­fore the di­vi­sion of the Korean penin­sula in 1948, there were two rail­way lines link­ing the North to the South – one in the west and the other in the east.

As a ges­ture to­ward rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, the two Koreas re­con­nected the west­ern line in 2007 and lim­ited num­bers of freight trains that trans­ported goods to and from the Seoulin­vested Kaesong in­dus­trial zone in the North for about a year. But the line has since been out of ser­vice due to ten­sions over the North’s nu­clear de­vel­op­ment pro­gram.

The cur­rent rail­way project has also faced de­lays over con­cerns it could vi­o­late UN sanc­tions im­posed on the North over its nu­clear and mis­sile pro­grams. But the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil granted an ex­emp­tion for the joint study last week.

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