By Kim Young Deok and Lee Hana
Photos = Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport
For the first time in 70 years, roads and railways connecting the two Koreas have been reconnected, laying the foundation for the Northeast Asian Railway Community proposed by President Moon Jae-in.
On Dec. 26, the two Koreas held a groundbreaking ceremony at Panmun Station in the North Korean border city of Gaeseong for the connection and modernization of inter-Korean railways along the western Gyeongui and eastern Donghae rail lines.
The project was stipulated in the Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace signed on April 27 in this year’s first inter-Korean summit. In the third meeting held in September in Pyeongyang, both sides also agreed to hold a ceremony this year to mark the launch of the cross-border rail project.
On the day of the ceremony, a train carrying a South Korean delegation left Seoul Station at 8:34 a.m. and crossed the Military Demarcation Line, arriving at Panmun Station in roughly an hour and 40 minutes.
“The railways connecting Seoul and Gaeseong are now wide open. The door that was closed for close to 70 years has been opened, and we’ve taken a step forward,” said Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee. “The era of division and confrontation must be ended in our time.”
She also signed a railroad tie with a message saying, “Inter-Korean railroads for peace and prosperity, in commemoration of the groundbreaking ceremony for the connection and modernization of inter-Korean railways.”
Also attending the ceremony were Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon, North Korean officials including Ri Son Gwon, head of Pyeongyang’s delegation for high-level inter-Korean talks, and five family members separated by the Korean War.
The South Korean government will examine the railroads and create a master plan for the project. The Unification Ministry said construction will proceed while Seoul keeps an eye on Pyeongyang’s denuclearization process and international sanctions on the North.