Railway systems that run through the Korean peninsula to the Eurasian continent, if built, would help boost the economy of countries in the region, government officials and economists said Tuesday.
At the 2018 KITA-CSIS Reconnecting Asia Conference, held in Seoul, South Korean government officials and economists from the Korea International Trade Association and Center for Strategic & International Studies spoke with one voice over the huge economic potential of railway networks that connect South and North Korea and countries like China, Russia and Mongolia.
"Asia is integrating internally. South Korea is isolated from the world (geographically). We want Korea to be a leader in reconnecting Asia to the world," CSIS President & CEO John J. Hamre said at the gathering.
The conference, the first of its kind, was held on the same day that South Korean President Moon Jae-in flew to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, for his third meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
Lisa Collins, a research fellow at CSIS Korea, mentioned the long-term "great possibility" for railway cooperation between the two Koreas, but mentioned that establishing the necessary infrastructure will be hard to be profitable in the beginning.
"The current South Korean government sees inter-Korean railway cooperation as a new, key engine for reducing tensions, building trust, and advancing inter-Korean relations. They seem to perceive this area as less subject to political and tactical maneuvering, more technical, more concrete and therefore a greater possibility for confidence building measures and an anchor for economic cooperation," she said.
The railway plans are part of the Panmunjom Declaration signed between Seoul and Pyongyang in the truce village in April. At that meeting, the two Koreas agreed to cooperate to rebuild and upgrade railways and roads in the east and west sides of the divided peninsula.
If things move forward smoothly, "the Trans-Korean Railway (TKR) will be connected to the Trans-Siberian Railway, the Trans-Chinese Railway and the Trans-Mongolian Railway," First Vice Foreign Minister Im Sung-nam said at the conference.
To push forward the TKR project, it is a prerequisite for economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations and United States on the North to be lifted or at least eased, most of panel participants said. (Yonhap)