S. Korea reveals blueprint for East Asia railway network

Posted on : 2019-09-05 16:43 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Project would involve N. Korea, China, Russia, Mongolia, Japan, and US
East Asia railroad network projects
East Asia railroad network projects

The South Korean government has unveiled the blueprint for a proposed railroad link that it hopes to pursue in partnership with North Korea, China, Russia, Mongolia, Japan, and the US. Nearly one year after South and North Korea released the Pyongyang Joint Statement, on Sept. 19, 2018, Seoul has come up with a plan for economic cooperation with Pyongyang that would focus on a railroad project in East Asia.

Hosted by South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport, the international seminar of the East Asian Railroad Community was held at the InterContinental Seoul COEX Hotel on Sept. 4. This community, which was proposed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in in his commemorative address for Liberation Day last year, would be an international body for deliberating economic cooperation projects and railroad-focused infrastructure investment among the six countries of Northeast Asia and the US.

Russia, Mongolia, and China have announced their intention to join the community, and each sent senior officials to the seminar: Russian Deputy Minister of Transport Vladimir Tokarev, Mongolian Deputy Minister of Road and Transportation Development Sandagdorj Batbold, and Chinese National Railway Administration Director-General Yan Hexiang.

Japan’s Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (ERINA) and the World Bank also expressed interest in the idea by sending representatives to the seminar.

During the keynote presentation, Kim Kang-soo, a senior analyst with the Korea Development Institute, summarized the state of railroad operations in each country and outlined 30 economic cooperation projects and four railroad lines that would facilitate efficient freight transportation. According to Kim, building lines linking Seoul, Pyongyang, Harbin, and Chita; Seoul, Wonsan, Tumangang, and Khabarovsk; and Busan, Gangneung, Tumangang, and Khabarovsk would allow work on a trans- Eurasian belt; an economic railroad in China, Mongolia, and Russia; the restoration of the Gyeongwon Line between Seoul and Wonsan; and a joint venture for international tourism at Tumangang.

“The GDP of the states that could participate in the community represents 49.8% of global GDP, and their population, at 2.11 billion, accounts for 27.4% of the global population. By strengthening cooperation between these countries, the East Asian Railroad Community could serve to elevate the region into the world’s greatest economic zone,” Kim said.

While North Korea is also interested in railroad cooperation, its stalled relationship with the US has blocked progress in that area.

During a meeting of government ministers from the Organization for Cooperation of Railways that was held in Uzbekistan this past June, South Korean Second Vice Minister for Land, Infrastructure, and Transport Kim Kyung-wook reportedly met with his North Korean counterpart and explained the plan for the East Asian Railroad Community. North Korea was also invited to attend this seminar, but it declined to send anyone.

“Since North Korea stands to gain the most if the East Asian Railroad Community becomes a reality, we think that they’ll participate once the international situation improves. Until then, the government is making all possible preparations, and the seminar marked the beginning of that,” said an official from South Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport.

By Kim Tae-gyu, staff reporter

Please direct comments or questions to [english@hani.co.kr]

Related stories