Inter-Korean joint railway survey to begin on Nov. 30

Posted on : 2018-11-29 17:23 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Groundbreaking ceremony likely to be held before end of year
Joint survey of inter-Korean railways
Joint survey of inter-Korean railways

An 18-day joint survey of North Korean railway lines for the linkage and modernization of South and North Korean railways is scheduled to begin on Nov. 30.

With the survey beginning, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s promise in their Pyongyang Joint Declaration in September to hold a groundbreaking ceremony within the year appears likely to come to fruition. The joint survey is historically significant as a first step toward achieving the two dreams of linking/modernizing the Korean Peninsula’s currently separated railways and achieving a “Northeast Asian railway community.”

In showing the two sides’ agreement on proceeding with a key cooperation project even as tensions rise on the peninsula with North Korea and the US’ blinking contest over denuclearization and normalizing relations, it sends the message that neither intends to allow any backsliding in inter-Korean relations.

“The survey for the Seoul-Sinuiju line between Kaesong and Sinuiju (around 400 km) will be taking place over a six-day period from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5, while the survey for the East Sea line between Mt. Kumgang and the Duman (Tumen) River (around 800km) will be taking place over a 10-day period from Dec. 8 to 17,” the South Korean Ministry of Unification announced on Nov. 28.

Proceeding from the Seoul-Sinuiju (Gyeongui) line to the East Sea (Donghae) line, the joint survey is to cover a total length of 1,200km. But the actual length of North Korean railways that South Korean trains would potentially be traveling amounts to 2,600km; in addition to the official sections in the survey, they would also need to use North Korean railways when traveling between the two lines and returning to the South.

First time a S. Korean train will travel majority of N. Korean railways since division

The course to be traveled by the South Korean train used in the survey will run from Seoul Station to Dorasan Station before crossing the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) to Panmunjom Station, Sinuiju Station, and Taekam Station (near Pyongyang). From there, it is to shift from the Seoul-Sinuiju line to the East Sea Line, traveling to Anbyon Station, Tumen River Station, Wonsan Station, Panmun Station, Dorasan Station, and back to Seoul Station.

It is to be the first time since Korea’s division that a South Korean train travels over the majority of the North’s major rail routes. The South’s survey participants – consisting of 28 working-level officials from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport; the Ministry of Unification; KORAIL; and the Korea Rail Network Authority – will only be boarding the train for the Seoul-Sinuiju and East Sea sections.

The journey will be the first for a South Korean train on North Korean railway lines apart from the Seoul-Sinuiju line – namely the East Sea and Pyongyang-Rajin (Pyongra) lines – since railways on the two sides were separated on Sept. 11, 1945. A South Korean train previously held exactly one test run from Seoul Station to Sinuiju on Dec. 12–18, 2007, following an agreement in that year’s October 4 Summit Declaration to use the Seoul-Sinuiju line to send a joint inter-Korean cheering squad to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. A freight train survey between Dorasan in the South and Panmun in the North was previously operated five times a week from Dec. 11, 2007 to Nov. 28, 2008, before being discontinued.

The South Korean train used in the survey is to consist of a locomotive and six passenger/freight cars. In addition to a diesel locomotive, it will include one fuel tank car (55,000 liters), one generator car (300kW), one passenger car (72 seats), one sleeping car (two stories/28 berths), one couchette (for clerical matters and bathing), and one freight car. Because of the different rail communications and signaling systems used in South and North Korea, the six South Korean passenger/freight cars are to be linked a North Korean locomotive at Panmun Station, with an additional three North Korean passenger/freight cars added for the joint survey.

Sendoff event at Dorsan on Nov. 30

In a nod to the importance of the inter-Korean railway modernization efforts, Seoul plans to hold a sendoff event on the morning of Nov. 30 at the South Korean section’s northernmost station of Dorasan, with the Ministers of Unification and Land, Infrastructure and Transport in attendance alongside members of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs & Unification Committee; Land, Infrastructure & Transport Committee; and Special Committee on Economic Cooperation.

“After the joint survey, there will be the formulation of a basic plan, additional surveys, and design efforts, allowing the actual construction to proceed as progress is made with North Korea’s denuclearization,” the Ministry of Unification explained.

The ministry also said that Seoul “will hold discussions with the North on the issue of holding a groundbreaking ceremony within the year.”

Institute of National Unification Director Kim Yeon-chul said the effort was “significant in terms of [South and North Korea] making this joint railway survey come about despite the difficulties with the stalemate in political tensions between North Korea and the US combined with the US government’s by-the-book attitude on North Korea sanctions.”

“In addition to the linking up the railways on the Korean Peninsula, this also marks a first step toward a Northeast Asian railway community,” Kim observed.

“As a start, we should place importance on the connection of the railways, but over the intermediate to long term, we should also advance it to suit the reality and conditions of developments in inter-Korean relations,” he suggested.

Meanwhile, Im Sang-seop, industry policy bureau director general of the Korea Forest Service, and 14 other forestry experts visited North Korea over the Seoul-Sinuiju line on Nov. 29 to deliver 50 tons of chemicals to prevent pine wilt disease, participate in joint prevention efforts in affected pine forests near Kaesong, and hold discussions with local experts, the Ministry of Unification said.

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

Please direct comments or questions to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Most viewed articles