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‘Eurasia Express’ to link Korea, Europe

South Korea on Tuesday unveiled plans to introduce a special express train this summer linking Asia and Europe as part of its efforts to boost economic and sociocultural cooperation between the two continents.

Under the slogan, “One Dream, One Eurasia,” some 250 people from the political, economic, academic and cultural circles and ordinary citizens will gather in Seoul on July 14 before flying to Vladivostok and Beijing for a 20-day journey.

In Vladivostok, about 200 of them will take the main itinerary under which they traverse nearly 12,000 kilometers on a charter railroad through Berlin with five stops in Russia and Warsaw.

A Trans-Siberian train. (KORAIL)
A Trans-Siberian train. (KORAIL)

A branch line starting from Beijing will carry another 50 until they join the others in the eastern Russian city of Irkutsk via Ulaanbaatar.

“The total travel range will reach 14,400 kilometers, which translates into about one-third of the Earth’s circumference and 33 times the distance between Seoul and Busan,” Park Chul-min, director-general for European affairs at the ministry, said at a news conference in Seoul.

“The project is forecast to help improve mutual understanding with Russia and Mongolia and expand the foundation for exchanges and cooperation in various fields as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties with each of the countries.”

As the centerpiece of President Park Geun-hye’s third-year presidency, Seoul officials highlighted the “Eurasia Initiative” aimed at connecting Eurasian nations by linking roads and railways. She has announced her desire to launch what she called the “Silk Road Express” running from South Korea to Europe via North Korea, Russia and China, as well as an integrated Eurasia power grid and a logistics hub that covers China, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

Despite the absence of Pyongyang’s participation, the project could pave the way for the Trans-Korean Railway and the wider Trans-Siberian Railroad reaching Europe, they said.

The ministry and the state-run Korea Railroad Corp. plan to funnel 1 billion won ($920,000) and 600 million won, respectively. The total budget is subject to change according to the final event schedule but expected to top 2 billion won, officials say, adding that the remainder will be donated by businesses.

On each stop, the passengers will take part in a number of forums and seminars on business, logistics, cultural exchanges, foreign affairs and unification, among others.

The final destination will house major events such as a music concert in front of Brandenburg Gate, a conference on unification and a march to the Berlin Wall marking the 25th anniversary of the unification of the two Germanys and the 70th anniversary of the division of the peninsula.

“Though North Korea’s participation is unconfirmed, we hope the project will provide a chance to expedite inter-Korean rail cooperation and the Rajin-Khasan project,” Lim Soo-suk, the ministry’s deputy director general for European affairs, added, referring to the Russian-led initiative to refurbish the North Korean port city of Rajin and a railroad connecting it to the nearby Russian town of Khasan, with participation by three South Korean companies ― KORAIL, POSCO and Hyundai Merchant Marine.

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)
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