South Korea is set to launch a task force on economic cooperation projects with North Korea and Russia, including a long-discussed plan for a trilateral rail link, Seoul officials said Thursday.
The move is the first follow-up step after President Park Geun-hye announced late last year her plan to expand economic cooperation with Eurasian countries for more trade opportunities.
Called the Eurasian Initiative, the policy is centered on the idea that exchanges between South Korea and Eurasian nations, especially Russia, will help induce an opening up in the reclusive North, which lies in between, thus allaying the long-running military and diplomatic tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
The task force, tentatively named the Trilateral South, North Korea, Russia Cooperation Task Force, will be launched as soon as February under the wing of the foreign ministry's Europe division, according to the officials.
Under the task force, about five government officials will be charged with reviewing the feasibilities of various economic project ideas among the three nations, including much-discussed plans to link a railroad, gas and oil pipes, and electrical grids between South Korea and Russia through North Korea, according to them.
"All the issues concerning the trilateral cooperation among South and North Korea, and Russia can be subject to the task force's reviews," a foreign ministry official said. "Specific details about the projects will be known after the task force goes into operations."
Discussions of the project to connect the Trans-Siberian Railway with the Trans-Korean Railway, dubbed the "Iron Silk Road," have been under way for more than a decade, but geopolitical obstacles have hindered it, particularly given North Korea's nuclear and missile ambitions.
In a summit meeting held in Seoul last November, South Korean President Park and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a memorandum of understanding to help South Korean companies join the Rajin-Khasan development project in North Korea, the Pyongyang-Moscow project to link their railways for better logistics. (Yonhap News)