President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday reiterated his willingness to build an integrated railway network for the peace on the Korean Peninsula during a visit to a groundbreaking ceremony for railroad construction in the Jejin railway project. On the same day, the North fired a suspected ballistic missile into the sea.
“It could symbolically show our trust and willingness to connect the Donghae Line and Gyeongui Line, which the two Koreas agreed to pursue as a top priority in the Panmunjom Declaration,” President Moon said at the groundbreaking ceremony.
Mentioning the North’s test-firing an unknown short-range projectile in the morning, he said, “Peace on the Korean Peninsula does not come by itself. Sometimes tension is created.”
He admitted there are concerns that this could create tension and deepen the stagnation in inter-Korean relations.
“We must not let go of the cords of dialogue to fundamentally overcome this situation,” Moon said, urging the North to work harder for dialogue.
The construction is a project that connects 111.74 kilometers from a signal station in South Gangneung to Jejin Station in Goseong-gun, both located in Gangwon Province. The total project cost is 2.7 trillion won ($2.2 billion). The construction began at the end of 2021 and aims to end in 2027.
Jejin Station was connected to Gamho Station in North Korea in 2007 through an agreement between the two Koreas in 2002.
Cheong Wa Dae believes when the railway is built, it will be a gateway to extend to Eurasia in connection with the continental railway network (such as the trans-Siberian railway).
“Today’s event aims to clarify the willingness to connect inter-Korean railways, and check preparations for international railway operations in preparation for an era of inter-Korean and continental railways,” the presidential office said in a written statement. “And it aims to confirm the status of integrated railway networks in Gangwon Province for balanced regional new deals.”
Following the Panmunjom Declaration in 2018, the South and the North completed a joint investigation of the northern section of the Gyeongui Line and Donghae Line railroads. They held a groundbreaking ceremony for the connection and modernization of the Donghae and Seohae Lines at Panmun Station in Kaesong.
After the breakdown of the Hanoi talks in 2019, inter-Korean railway cooperation entered a lull. Still, the South Korean government prepared to establish a plan to modernize the North Korean railway in preparation for the resumption of cooperation with the North.
By Shin Ji-hye (email@example.com