Is Seoul-Moscow Railway Linkage Feasible?

Korea Times
Kim Yon-se

President Roh Moo-hyun has expressed his willingness for economic cooperation with Russia, including linking the Trans-Korean Railway (TKR) and the Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR), by sending a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, a Chong Wa Dae official said.

But cooperation with North Korea would be required for the railway connection between Seoul and Moscow, government officials said.

Though experts from South Korea, North Korea and Russia have held a series of meetings to discuss the railway project over the past several years, it has lingered on due to a series of politically negatives surrounding the Korean Peninsula.

According to government officials, North Korea has won Russian pledges of economic aid by agreeing on the project, which will generate huge profits for Russia.

During the Kim Dae-jung administration, many hoped the railway project would provide a momentum for the reunification of the two Koreas.  Since 2001 when North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on the reconnection of the TKR and TSR, the project to restore the Gyeongui line which links Seoul to Pyongyang and Shinuiju in the North, was expected to recommence.

Reconnection of the Gyeongui railway was agreed upon during the inter-Korean summit talks in June 2000.

But the North withdrew its workforce and equipment from the area in 2001, while the South has completed more than 70 percent of the Southern part of the line.

When the TKR and TSR are connected, transportation costs will be cut and the time taken to ship cargo to Europe will be reduced to 20 days from 45 days, bringing a significant change to the logistics system in Northeast Asia.

In addition, the connection of the railways is expected to increase both countries’ revenues, as North Korea and Russia are likely to collect $100 million and $400 million in tolls, respectively.

“The letter to Putin did not contain anything new on the railway project, though the issue was included in suggestions for economic cooperation,” said Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Cheon Ho-seon.

He added that there has been no reply from Putin to Roh.

In the letter delivered by former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, Roh also proposed to hold a summit with Putin. Han traveled to Moscow on April 25 to attend the state funeral of former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.


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