05/17/2007, 00.00
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After 50 years, two trains cross the border between the North and South

The reopening of the lines, which cross the heavily fortified border dividing the peninsula, was first forecast in 2000. Politicians from both sides underline the importance of the event destined to help the national reunification process as well as integration with the rest of the world.

Munsan (AsiaNews) – A pair of passenger trains have crossed the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea for the first time in more than 50 years, in one of the strongest signs to date of the will for reunification between the two nations.


The two trains – comprising five carriages - each carried 150 invited passengers: 100 South Koreans and 50 North Koreans. Tickets for the journey were sent to passengers by the two governments.  The lines used were put in place in 1940, but have been in disuse since the civil war (1950 – 1953).


The lines unite Munsan (in the South) with Kaesong, the inter Korean industrial complex, and Kumgang (in the North) with Jejin, for a total of almost 53 kilometres.


Ahead of the departure of the train from Munsan, Seoul authorities celebrated the event with a demonstration in favour of Korean unification.  South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joun declared: “I hope this will be a turning point for overcoming the legacy of the Cold War era, tearing down the wall of division and opening a new era for peace and reunification”.


North Korean official, Kwon Ho-ung, added: “both nations should not be derailed from the tracks towards unification”. Following the ceremony both politicians headed for the North. 


The reopening of these tracks is part of the peace accord signed by both governments in 2000, later rejected by Pyongyang.  


The decision to reopen the link came about last April, but Pyongyang delegated the final decision to the Army given the necessity of military coverage of the event.


South Korea hopes that the reopening of the tracks may lead to a direct link with the Trans-Siberian railway: which would effectively connect the Korean peninsula with Europe.   


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