Unification ministry spokesperson Baik Tae Hyun briefs the press about the schedule for the opening of the South Korea-North Korea joint liaison office at the Government Complex Seoul on Sept. 12. (Ministry of Unification)

Unification ministry spokesperson Baik Tae Hyun briefs the press about the schedule for the opening of the South Korea-North Korea joint liaison office at the Government Complex Seoul on Sept. 12. (Ministry of Unification)

By Oh Hyun-woo and Yoon Sojung

The railway connection project between the two Korea got a green light after a four-month delay due to the sanctions from the international community, including the U.S.

The U.N. Security Council Sanctions Committee on North Korea granted a sanctions exemption on Nov. 23 to allow the joint survey for the railway connection project. Thanks to the exemption, the joint survey will restart this week. If the survey goes according to the plan, a groundbreaking ceremony could take place within the year.

Unification ministry spokesperson Baik Tae Hyun said at the regular press briefing on Nov. 26 that, “We have been consulting with the North so that the joint survey can take place this week.”

“The South Korean government has been carrying out inter-Korean cooperation and exchanges projects within the framework of international sanctions,” Baik said.

The Ministry of Unification has been aiming to start the construction work within the year. In this regard, the unification ministry spokesperson said, “We will speed up the procedure so that the project will be carried out without any delay.”

The joint survey will involve South Korean passenger cars which will travel to the North. When the passenger cars arrive in the North, a North Korean locomotive will take the cars to test-run the railway routes. Both Koreas will carry out the survey in the western Gyeongui Line first and then the eastern Donghae Line. The joint survey is expected to take approximately 20 days.

The railway and road connection and modernization projects between the two Koreas are part of the Panmunjeom Declaration which the leaders of the two Koreas reached on Apr. 27 this year. This past July, the two Koreas started to conduct a joint on-site survey of the junctions of the Gueongui railway and the Donghae railway for the connection of the railways between South and North Korea. The United Nations Command, however, did not allow either side to cross over the Military Demarcation Line, which resulted in a halt to the joint survey of the inter-Korean railway.

Cheong Wa Dae hailed the U.N. Security Council’s decision.

Cheong Wa Dae Spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said on Nov. 24 that, “The decision is significant as it implies that the inter-Korean railway connection project had received acknowledgement and support from the U.S. and the international community.”

“Experts from both Koreas will spend quite a long time in the train to travel all the routes of the North Korean railway, which will lead to a new stage of inter-Korean cooperation,” said the presidential spokesperson.

“As we have been waiting for this for a long time, we hope the bloodline of our homeland can be connected in a swift manner,” he added.

hyunw54@korea.kr