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Two Koreas resume rail service after 5 decades

world Updated: Dec 11, 2007 21:51 IST
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South and North Korea Tuesday resumed the regular train service after a gap of more than half a century, in a move considered as a major breakthrough in rebuilding economic ties between the two.

The first 12-carriage cargo train carrying raw materials left South Korea's Munsan station early in the morning for the Kaesong industrial park in North Korea. The freight-only service will run daily on weekdays.

"The launch of the cargo train service is a significant event that will mark a page in the nation's history," South Korea's senior minister Kwon Ho-ung was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency.

"It will invigorate the Kaesong industrial complex while greatly contributing to achieving reconciliation, cooperation and the unification of our nation," Kwon said.

The Kaesong complex is the largest joint economic project between the two countries. Dozens of South Korean companies are operating at the park, employing more than 20,000 workers, mostly from the North.

The South has until now relied on road and sea transit to supply goods to the complex, and the opening of a regular cargo rail link is certain to speed up deliveries and bring costs down.

In November the two Koreas agreed on a range of projects aimed at rebuilding the impoverished North's decaying infrastructure, including South Korean plans to build a shipyard in the northwest of the country and to repair the highway linking Kaesong to the capital city of Pyongyang.

The two states have yet to sign a formal peace agreement to replace the ceasefire following the 1950-1953 Korean War, meaning that the sides technically remain at a state of war. The US, whose signature is needed on a peace treaty, has said it will not sign until the North scraps its nuclear weapons "in a verifiable fashion."