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12 – 15 June 2019, Busan

07.06.2018 N. Korea helps S. Korea to join cross-continent railway cooperation body

Source: Aju Business Daily / 7 June 2018

Helped by North Korea's generous concession, South Korea has secured a much-coveted seat at an international body launched by the former Soviet Union and its allies to discuss cross-continent railway cooperation, transport authorities said Thursday.

At a ministerial meeting in Kyrgyzstan, South Korea received unanimous approval to become a full regular member of the Organization for Cooperation of Railways (OSJD), according to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

The organization was established in 1956 by the former Soviet Union and its allies, including North Korea and China, to create and improve the coordination of international rail transport between Europe and Asia. South Korea's previous attempt to join had been unsuccessful due to strong objection by North Korea.

At Thursday's meeting, North Korea changed its stance to support South Korea's membership, the ministry said.

At a several annual economic meeting in Seoul, Russia and South Korea discussed cooperation in gas-pipeline and other projects involving the two Koreas and Russia. Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon, the South's chief delegate, said North Korea's participation is essential for any inland projects to connect South Korea with Russia.

"North Korea's participation will lead to the reconnection of severed railways from the Korean peninsula to Siberia, the extension of Russia's gas pipeline to South Korea," he said. "When international friendly conditions are created in the future, we will be able to seek common prosperity among the three countries."

The meeting discussed President Moon Jae-in's initiative to set up a Northeast Asia power grid that would also encompass Japan, China and Russia as part of his proposal to establish an economic community in Northeast Asia.

Earlier projects to build inland gas pipelines and railways from Russia to South Korea Korea, the world's second-largest importer of gas, have been scrapped for political reasons such as Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development.

The inter-Korean summit in April paved the way for the two Koreas to resurrect stalled economic projects. As a first step, the two sides promised to connect and modernize cross-border railways and roads.

The two Koreas opened an inter-Korean industrial zone in Kaesong just north of the border in December 2004 as well as cross-border roads and rail tracks. Originally, the cross-border line was to be extended to Pyongyang and up to the northern border city of Sinuiju.

Reopening a cross-border route for traffic of men, vehicles and trains has been a favorite topic at previous inter-Korean talks. In preparation for unification of the divided peninsula, South Korea has gradually rebuilt and upgraded the southern section of disconnected railways and roads.

 

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