11/29/2008, 00.00
KOREA
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Korea, end of the line for the "peace train"

The historic connection, launched with a bang one year ago, has been cut off by the decision of the government of Pyongyang. It was a symbol of the slow journey toward peace, but often traveled empty. The communist regime accuses the South of promoting hostile policies; for Seoul, any agreement depends on the interruption of the North Korean nuclear program.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - November 28, 2008, could mark the end of the railway link between the two Koreas. Yesterday, in fact, the South Korean freight train made what could turn out to be its last run between the two countries, putting an end to the scant remaining hopes for reconciliation after decades of cold war.

The interruption, decided by the communist North Korean government, is a further sign of the moment of tension being experienced on the peninsula. Pyongyang accuses the conservative government of Seoul of promoting a confrontational policy, and of failing to honor the agreements reached at the historic summits of 2000 and 2007. The South Korean government led by Lee Myung-bak has made any negotiations conditionas on the abandonment of North Korea's nuclear program. Seoul is rejecting any accusation, emphasizing the decision of the North to prefer the logic of threats to dialogue.

The railway link between the two Koreas, launched with a bang about a year ago, was one of the most important gestures for a path of reconciliation: it spanned the 25 kilometers that divide Minsan, in the South, from Bongdong, in the North. The link was used to facilitate freight transport to the North Korean industrial complex in Kaesong, the first where workers from both Koreas collaborate, and made daily runs. Most of the time, it had a purely symbolic value, because it had to travel empty. For the transportation of goods, South Korean companies used the road that runs parallel to the train tracks.

Also yesterday, the South Korean tour operator Hunday Asan organized its last visit to the historic city of Kaesong before the suspension of the tourism program scheduled for December 1. All of the reservations for the weekend have been canceled, to make it easier for South Korean workers to return from the industrial complex following the decision of the North Korean communist regime.

Kim Ho-nyeon, spokesman for South Korea's unification ministry, says that between 1500 and 1700 work permits for the North remain valid, and affirms that the negotiations between the two countries continue.

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