A train from South Korea crossed into the North, officially launching a joint project connecting the railroad between the two nations in the Peninsula, AFP reported.
A banner displayed on a red, white and blue train read “Iron Horse is now running toward the era of peace and prosperity”, which departed from South Korea’s Dorasan station.
“This signals the start of co-prosperity of the North and the South by reconnecting railways,” said South Korean Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee, as quoted in the AFP report.
He said relinking the railway will facilitate expansion of South Korea’s “economic territory” to Eurasia by land because the division of the Korean Peninsula has left his country geopolitically cut off from the continent for decades.
The development comes after a number of agreements had been signed during a meeting between the two leaders of the Koreas.
According to local press reports cited in the report, the six-wagon train is carrying 28 South Koreans, including railway engineers and other workers, as well as 55 tonnes of fuel and an electricity generator.
Once it arrives at North Korea’s Panmun station, which will be the first terminal across the border, the six wagons will be linked up to a North Korean train, with the train returning back to South Korea.
The South Korean rail workers and their counterparts in the North are due to stay in the train, inspecting two railway lines for a total of 18 days, the report read.
According to the report, one of the lines links the North’s southernmost Kaesong City to Sinuiju City near the Chinese border, and the other connects Mount Kumgang near the inter-Korean border to Tumen River, bordering Russia in the east.
According to South Korea’s transport ministry as cited in the report, they will travel nearly 2,600 kilometers on railway tracks together for the project.
Seoul had said that the survey was purely intended for gathering information on the current state of the North’s rail system, insisting that actual restoration work would take place only after securing the UN Security Council’s consent, granted last week.
From December 2007 until November 2008, freight services ran between the two Koreas to support factories in a joint economic zone at Kaesong in North Korea. The line was cut in 2008 following deterioration in relations between the two, the report stated.