2 Koreas to Break Ground on Railway, Road Projects

  • By Lee Yong-soo, Kim Myong-song

    December 14, 2018 10:49

    North and South Korea have agreed to hold a ground-breaking ceremony in Kaesong on Dec. 26 to reconnect railways and roads severed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

    But actual work cannot start until sanctions against North Korea are lifted. The South Korean government believes that the ground-breaking ceremony itself will not violate sanctions and has sought no temporary waiver from the U.S., which has recently tightened sanctions over North Korea's human rights abuses.

    The two Koreas in a last-minute meeting decided to invite 100 guests from each side. A survey of railway tracks along North Korea's east coast is still under way, while inspections of roads in the area have yet to begin.

    South Korea's hurry to break ground on the project seems to reflect pressure to implement at least some of the agreements signed by their leaders at a summit in September.

    One government source said, "Cheong Wa Dae had been hoping for Kim Jong-un to visit Seoul, but since that isn't happening the government is focusing all its efforts on holding the ground-breaking ceremony before the end of the year."

    The government apparently feels the event is necessary to maintain some momentum in engagement with North Korea.

    It is unclear whether the U.S. has been consulted in the process. "We have no intention of bringing banned items to the North, so the ground-breaking ceremony is not subject to sanctions," a government official said. "But we still continue to hold negotiations with the U.S. through working-level channels." 

    Moon told reporters during his last overseas trip, "If we break ground [on the railway reconnection project], there is a possibility of violating sanctions, so additional talks need to be held with the U.S. and UN."

    But he added, "I believe we can hold a groundbreaking ceremony symbolizing that the project has begun and I intend to hold sufficient negotiations with the U.S. on that matter." 

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