ASIA S Kore­ans re­turn home af­ter rail check

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SEOUL/DO­RASAN — A group of South Korean of­fi­cials and rail­way ex­perts re­turned home yes­ter­day af­ter com­plet­ing a joint in­spec­tion of the rail sys­tem in western North Korea.

The 28 South Kore­ans crossed into Do­rasan Sta­tion, just south of the in­ter-Korean bor­der, at around 5:11 pm fol­low­ing a six-day in­spec­tion that cov­ered the rail line from Kaesong near the bor­der with the South to Sinuiju near the bor­der with China.

A train car­ry­ing six South Korean cars left for the North on Fri­day last week. It was taken over by a North Korean lo­co­mo­tive at Pan­mun Sta­tion, from which point five North Korean cars were con­nected to it for the joint work.

“The over­all rail­way con­di­tions have not been bet­ter or much worse com­pared with when we vis­ited there be­fore,” Lim Jong-il, a trans­porta­tion min­istry of­fi­cial who headed the team, told re­porters.

He was in­volved in a 2007 rail­way in­spec­tion in the North.

“The fi­nal out­come will re­quire addi- tional or in- depth study go­ing for­ward. Based on the fi­nal anal­y­sis, we can de­ter­mine whether it (the rail­way) is safe or not,” he added.

Lim said that the train ran at a speed of around 20-60 kph dur­ing the in­spec­tion pe­riod, with the speed rel­a­tively faster on the rail­way above Py­ongyang.

A sep­a­rate team of South Kore­ans is to cross into the North on Satur­day to con­duct an in­spec­tion of the North’s east­ern Dong­hae rail­way, which will last un­til De­cem­ber 17.

The train used for the in­spec­tion of the western Gyeongui line left for the North’s east­ern town of Won­san to pre­pare for the in­spec­tion of the rail from Mount Kum­gang to the Tu­men River on the North’s north­east­ern tip.

They will in­spect rail­ways in the North with a com­bined length of 1,200km — 400km on the western line and 800km on the east­ern line.

The in­spec­tion is part of a sum­mit agree­ment be­tween the lead­ers of South and North Korea in April to mod­ernise and even­tu­ally re­con­nect rail sys­tems across their bor­der in a bid to foster rec­on­cil­i­a­tion on the Korean Penin­sula.

This marked the first in­spec­tion of its kind since 2007, when the Koreas as­sessed a 412-km stretch of rail­way from Kaesong to Sinuiju. It also marked the first time for a South Korean train to run from Mount Kum­gang to the Tu­men River since the penin­sula was di­vided fol­low­ing the 195053 Korean War.

The in­spec­tion has been de­layed amid US con­cerns about pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of UN sanc­tions on North Korea. The pro­ject was given the green light re­cently as the US ex­pressed strong sup­port for the sur­vey, and the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil granted a sanc­tions ex­emp­tion.

The two Koreas are seek­ing to hold a ground­break­ing cer­e­mony for road and rail­way con­nec­tions over their bor­der be­fore the end of this year, as agreed upon by their lead­ers. — YON­HAP

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