DPRK and South Korea neared an agreement to start construction of the Gyeongui rail line linking Seoul to the North's Sinuiju next month in order to complete the project within this year, Seoul officials said Wednesday.
On the second day of the four-day economic talks at the Grand Hilton Hotel in northwestern Seoul, DPRK and South Korea negotiators sat down for the first plenary session and working-level contact to tackle the restoration of border-crossing railways and roads and other bilateral cooperation projects.
Setting dates for reconnecting the Gyeongui Line and eastern coastal railways and roads, severed shortly before the 1950-53 Korean War, is one of the key agenda items on which the Seoul government wants to reach an agreement.
The two Koreas agreed to set the timetable when they held ministerial talks Aug. 12-14 in Seoul.
Some observers voiced optimism for the two Koreas to work out a deal on railway reconnection, noting that DPRK delegation will return home via Vladivostok in Russia instead of Beijing in an unprecedented move.
Though DPRK delegates said they chose the route due to flight schedules, the observers interpreted this as a symbolic gesture to demonstrate the North's desire to connect the Trans-Korean Railway to the Trans-Siberian Railway.
The Seoul government is considering assisting the North in its connection work, which may reach 30 billion won (US$25 million).
(People's Daily August 29, 2002)