The 28-member team of South Korean officials and railway experts crossed into South Korea on Monday afternoon by bus after conducting a joint inspection of the 800-kilometer rail links from Kumgangsan near the inter-Korean border to the Tumen River bordering Russia in the east, the Unification Ministry said.
“The condition of the (eastern) railway appears to be almost the same as the (western) Gyeongui line,” Im Jong-il, head of the inspection team and an official from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, told reporters. “(The train) ran at around 30 kilometers per hour to the Tumen River.”
The inspection team traveled by bus from Kumgangsan Station to Anbyon Station to observe the condition of the railroads due to the poor condition of the railways. From there to Tumen River Station, they traveled by train, he said.
“In particular, bridges and 10 kilometers of the tunnel are very worn out,” he said.
The official said the Koreas had agreed on the need for additional thorough checks of the railways beginning early next year.
The inspection is part of efforts to connect railways between the two Koreas as agreed by their leaders at the April 27 summit. The two Koreas conducted the first part of the inspection, covering the North’s western rail line from Kaesong to Sinuiju, for six days starting Nov. 30.
The officials from both Koreas worked together in a “cooperative atmosphere” as the survey was the “first step toward connecting and modernizing the inter-Korean railways,” according to Park Sang-don, the official from the Unification Ministry who co-headed the inspection team.
The railway inspections had been delayed for months amid US concerns about possible violations of UN sanctions against North Korea. The project went ahead after the UN Security Council granted a sanctions exemption with the support of the US.
The two Koreas plan to hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the road and railway reconnection project Dec. 26 at Panmun Station, just north of the inter-Korean border.
Seoul plans to send a team to the North this week to prepare for the upcoming joint celebration, according to the Unification Ministry. It said close consultations with the US are underway on the planned ceremony.