Seoul and Pyongyang on Thursday agreed to push ahead with a groundbreaking ceremony for rail and road cooperation and modernization in Kaesong city later in the month, the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MOU) announced.
The agreement follows working-level talks between the two Koreas on the issue at the inter-Korean joint liaison office at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC).
“As a result of the working-level talks, both [Koreas] agreed to hold a groundbreaking ceremony at Panmun Station in Kaesong on December 26 (Wednesday),” the unification ministry said in a written statement.
North and South Korean deputy head of the liaison office Kim Chang-su and Hwang Chung Song took part in the meeting in their capacities as chief delegate.
Around 100 participants from each side will participate in the groundbreaking ceremony, the unification ministry said, adding the two Koreas plan to hold further discussions on the details.
The two Koreas originally agreed in the Pyongyang Joint Declaration signed this September to hold the groundbreaking ceremony within the year.
High-level inter-Korean talks in October saw the two sides agree to move that date forward and to push for the ceremony between late November and early December.
Though that deadline has since been pushed back, Seoul has since insisted preparations are underway to achieve that goal.
Wednesday saw MOU spokesperson Baik Tae-hyun say the two Koreas had agreed on a plan to hold the groundbreaking ceremony within the year, adding the two sides were in discussion on the plans.
Seoul and Pyongyang late last month kicked off a 16-day on-site survey of sections of rail on the east and west coasts of the northern part of the Korean peninsula.
The inspection of a 400-kilometer section of the Gyeongui railway line between Kaesong and Sinuiju was completed on December 5, with inspectors from the two Koreas now scheduled to conduct a joint survey of an 800-kilometer long area between Mount Kumgang and the Tumen River on the Donghae line between December 8 and 17.
Pyongyang on Monday told Seoul that the joint inspection team had investigated areas between Namae-ri, Kosong County, and Anbyon Station in Kangwon Province by bus after crossing the military demarcation line (MDL) at 0900 local time on Saturday.
The Ministry of Unification (MOU) said the notification was delivered via communication channels at the joint liaison office.
An official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport (MOLIT) previously told NK News the inspection team would travel by bus as some sections of rail had been damaged by flooding, among other things.
The North Korean side also said that an on-site survey of Wonsan and Kowon stations was proceeding “as scheduled,” following the inspectors’ boarding at Anbyon Station.
An on-site survey of road from Kaesong to Pyongyang on the Gyeongui line was conducted in August, though the two Koreas are failed to agree on a concrete date for the inspection of the Donghae line from Kosong to Wonsan at November’s second round of meetings of a joint research team held at the joint inter-Korean liaison office.
This is not the first time that the two Koreas have pushed forward with road and rail connection and modernization, however: the Donghae and Gyeongui roads were connected, respectively, in October 2003 and 2004, according to a unification ministry database.
The two Koreas also tested the operation of a Gyeongui-Donghae railway in May 2007, and began a regular freight service between Munsan and Bongdong stations on the Gyeongui line from December 2007 until November 2008, when it was unilaterally suspended by Pyongyang.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Ministry of Unification
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