http://havanajournal.com/politics/entry/korean-train-reconnects-two-koreas-for-first-time-in-57-years/

HavanaJournal.com: Cuba Politics

Korean train reconnects two Koreas for first time in 57 years

Posted December 11, 2007 by publisher in Cuba Politics.
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(I posted this story to show that if an old cold war country like North Korea can open up then Cuba might not be far away. Perhaps Fidel and Raul might see this as a historic event)

Jonathan Watts, east Asia correspondent | Guardian


North Koreans at Panmun station in Kaesong greet the first freight train service since 1950 to cross the border Photograph: Suh Myoung-gon/AP Photo/Yonhap
Regular freight train services between North and South Korea resumed today for the first time since 1950 amid rising hopes for peace on the divided peninsula.

A 12-car freight train laden with construction materials was the first to make what could become a daily journey between the rich, open South and the poor, isolated North.

The 10-mile track crosses the demilitarised zone along the 38th parallel, which is said to be the world’s most heavily fortified border.

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Following a test-run in May, officials said they hoped the track’s reopening would eventually lead to links with the Trans-Siberian railway, which would connect the South and North Korean capitals, Seoul and Pyongyang, to the capitals of Europe more than 5,000 miles away.

Lee Chul, president of Korea Railroad, hoped that South and North Koreans could travel together by rail to cheer for a joint Olympic team in Beijing next summer.

“Though we start with a cargo train, it will lead to a passenger train service and will soon be linked to the continental trains,” Lee told reporters.

“The economic benefits are countless.”

The South Korean president, Roh Moo-hyun, hailed the resumption of rail-links as a political and economic breakthrough that demonstrates the benefits of engaging with North Korea.

The immediate beneficiary will be the Kaesong industrial plant on the northern side of the border.

Sixty-four South Korean firms have opened factories in the groundbreaking project, employing 21,600 North Korean workers. The companies will now benefit from cheaper transport costs by using the railway instead of the two roads across the border.

Although North and South Korea remain technically at war, hopes for a lasting peace are at their highest level in more than a decade.

A year after Pyongyang tested its first nuclear bomb, relations with the United States, which has thousands of troops in South Korea, have improved dramatically in recent months.

In May, North Korea shut down its Yongbyon nuclear plant. Last week, the US president, George Bush, sent a letter to Kim Jong-il - the first known direct correspondence between the two leaders - and Washington has invited North Korean officials to a financial seminar.

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