Koreas sign security guarantee for planned cargo railway service


South and North Korea signed a security guarantee Wednesday for daily cross-border freight train service scheduled to start next week, the first substantial measure to follow up on agreements by the two countries’ leaders at their October summit, the Defense Ministry said.

The move came at a one-day meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom, which coincided with a separate meeting of deputy prime ministers of the divided nations here on boosting economic cooperation in line with the deal between South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-il.

The cargo train will carry raw materials and manufactured goods between South Korea and the North Korean border city of Kaesong, where South Korea operates an industrial park for a number of its small labor-intensive plants.

The agreement calls for guaranteeing safe passage of the cargo rail service linking Munsan Station in the South to Bongdong Station, which serves as a gateway to the Kaesong industrial park, as agreed at the second inter-Korean defense ministerial talks.

“It will take effect at midnight on Dec. 11,” the ministry said at a briefing on the results of the talks. “The train will be allowed to run at a speed of 20-60km per hour. Train drivers and other crew will be banned from taking photos in the other side’s area.”

But the talks did not address the date for the next round of general-grade talks between the two sides or how to improve the operation of the Kaesong industrial complex, including ways to facilitate transportation, customs clearance and telecommunication services, according to the ministry.

The defense chiefs of the two Koreas agreed to support inter-Korean economic cooperation projects in their rare meeting last week in Pyongyang.

The two Koreas plan to run a cargo train every day on the reconnected rail line between Munsan and Bongdong starting on Tuesday. The 19.8-km route between the two border towns was severed during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The cargo service is expected to facilitate the movement of goods to and from the Kaesong industrial complex, a joint venture between the technology-savvy South and the labor-abundant North.


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