South Korean authorities and trains leave Seoul Friday to cross the border and reach as far as near the Chinese border in North Korea for a joint rail study project cleared by the United Nations as a temporary exemption to sanctions.
According to the Ministry of Unification on Wednesday, the two Koreas agreed to conduct a joint feasibility study on roads, railways and other infrastructure conditions in the North for 18 days starting from Friday.
About 30 officials from each side will take part in the joint survey on two rail routes between Kaesong and Sinuiju in the west and between Mount Kumgang and the Tumen River in the east. They will trip total 2,600 kilometers on a train leaving Seoul Station in the early morning.
The last time trains from the South passed the border had been in November 2008. Under the agreement from the second inter-Korean summit in 2007, Seoul and Pyongyang had reopened the railway between Dorasan station in the South and Panmoon station in the North from Dec. 11, 2007 to Nov. 28, 2008 for the first time since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. The two sides have never reconnected the Mount Kumgang and the Tumen River in the east since the war.
The train will run on the western route for six days from Friday and then move to the west for a 10-day inspection.
The railway reconnection is one of key projects of the two Koreas agreed during this year’s three summit meetings between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The two agreed to break ground within this year in line with the progress on North’s denuclearization.
The two Koreas were able to carry out the feasibility study after the United Nations and the United States last week exempted the preparatory rail project activities from their sanctions on Pyongyang. But the cross-border activity cannot go beyond a field study as the work and investments needed to further railway project would still be subject to international sanctions.
By Kim Sung-hoon and Lee Ha-yeon
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]