S. Korean engineers to inspect 2,600 kilometers of railways in NK

Source: The Korea Times / 28 November 2018


The Koreas will begin a joint inspection of railway facilities and systems in the North, Friday, after a months-long delay. The inspections are part of a project to connect the railways of the South and North as agreed to at inter-Korean summits this year.

A train will run 2,600 kilometers across railways in the North, for 18 days.

"The government plans to complete the joint inspection efficiently, in order to check the condition of the North's rail infrastructure and use the data to modernize the system," the unification ministry said.

"Actual work on connecting the railways will begin according to progress in the North's denuclearization," it said. Sanctions on Pyongyang bar construction work from beginning.

The ministry said the government will continue discussion with the North on holding a groundbreaking ceremony on connecting the railways within the year, as leaders of the Koreas agreed at their third summit.

Six South Korean carriages and a locomotive will depart from Dorasan Station at around 8:30 a.m., where an event will be held. The ministers of unification, as well as land, infrastructure and transport, and lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties will attend the event at Dorasan Station.

After arriving at Panmun Station at 9 a.m., a North Korean locomotive will take the six South Korean carriages to the North. The government has yet to be notified by the North how many North Korean carriages will be added to the train.

Officials will begin examining the train line along the west coast first. Inspections for the line spanning 400 kilometers from Gaeseong through Pyongyang to Sinuiju will take six days.

The train will return to Pyongyang and then head to the east coast.

From Anbyon, the train will pick up officials to inspect 800 kilometers of train tracks, which will take another 10 days from Dec. 8 to 17.

After inspections are completed, the train will return to Gaeseong, where a South Korean locomotive will take the train back to Seoul.

Twenty-eight officials from the South will take part in the inspections, including officials from the unification and land ministries, and of the Korea Railroad Corporation and Korea Rail Network Authority.

The team from the North is expected to be similar in size, and represent similar government bodies and institutions.

Earlier in 2007, the Koreas conducted an on-site inspection of the train tracks between Kaesong and Sinuiju. The inspections this time will enable officials to check how the facilities and systems have held up over the past decade.

It will be the first time a South Korean train will run on North Korea's eastern train line from Mount Geumgang to the Tumen River.

The joint inspection of the railway sections in the North is based on agreements reached between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their first and third summits in April and September.

The Koreas held their first meeting on carrying out the agreement in June.

The inspections had initially been planned to take place in July, but were delayed for months, due to issues involving United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on the North.

A recent working group meeting between South Korean and U.S. officials on North Korea agreed to push forward with the plan, and the sanctions issue was cleared as the UNSC granted exemptions.

The South will send 50 tons of pest control chemicals to the North today, according to a forestry cooperation agreement, the unification ministry said.

The chemicals to control pine tree diseases are not subject to UNSC sanctions on the North, it said.