North-South Korea plan first train run in 55 yrs
Seoul, May 13: North and South Korea plan to send the first trains across their heavily fortified border in 55 years when they test rail links later this month, the South's Unification Ministry said today.
South Korea is keen for trains to cross the border. There are two sets of tracks that run from the South and into North Korea, but South Korean officials said the North's powerful military has been reluctant to sign off on a plan for through trains.
Officials from the two Koreas this week held their 12th round of talks on the rail links in the North Korean border city of Kaesong.
The talks ended early today.
They agreed to have test runs that will cover a small length of track on rail links on the east and west coasts of the peninsula, the two said in a statement released by the ministry.
''(The South) agreed to provide necessary equipment to help the North complete the final stage of railway construction,'' the statement said. The two will work out final details of the test runs in the coming days, the statement said.
South Korea has provided most of the capital and material to link the two Koreas by rail.
The western rail link would help in the shipment of goods in and out of an industrial park in Kaesong where South Korean companies produce goods at factories using cheap North Korean labour and land.
The eastern rail link would help in the tourism trade. A Hyundai group affiliate that runs the Kaesong industrial park also runs a mountain resort in North Korea on the east coast that millions of South Koreans have visited.
South and North Korean generals, who have had few meetings in the past, will hold talks next week on the measures they will use in monitoring rail traffic across the Cold War's last frontier.