BREAKING NEWS Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead Full Story

A South Korean train heads North, but sanctions mean it has to carry its own fuel

A South Korean train arrived in North Korea Friday for the first time in more than a decade ahead of a poten...

Posted: Nov 30, 2018 1:22 PM
Updated: Nov 30, 2018 1:22 PM

A South Korean train arrived in North Korea Friday for the first time in more than a decade ahead of a potential rail link up of the divided peninsula, with the team on board carrying their own fuel and supplies to conform with stringent sanctions still in place against Pyongyang.

The trip, which is part of a joint study to inspect the North's aged railway system, follows a series of summit meetings between the two countries' leaders earlier this year aimed at encouraging the North to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

Embargoes and sanctions

International relations

International relations and national security

Asia

Continents and regions

East Asia

South Korea

North Korea

Pyongyang

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Rail transportation

Transportation and warehousing

Any spare fuel left over from the trip will have to be hauled back to South Korea, to avoid the risk of inspectors breaching international restrictions on trading with the North.

If those restrictions are lifted in the future, a connection between the two Korean rail systems could bring huge economic benefits to the peninsula, linking up North Korean factories with markets in the South, and giving South Korean exporters a faster route to China and Eurasia.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has long dreamed of building a trans-Korea railroad. During a speech last year, he promised that the "severed inter-Korean railway will be connected again," adding that one day, "a train departing from Busan and Mokpo will run through Pyongyang and Beijing, and head towards Russia and Europe."

Inspection tour

A seven-car train left Seoul Station at 6:30 a.m. local time Friday, arriving at the border two and a half hours later.

Proceeding slowly and carefully, inspectors are hoping to ascertain the state of the North Korean railways, and just how much money would be required to upgrade them to the point they could carry South Korean trains.

According to South Korean officials, North Korea has over 5,226 kilometers (3,247 miles) of railway, compared to about 3,900 kilometers (2,423 miles) in the South. However, most of the North Korean routes operate as single track lines (meaning trains cannot pass each other) with an average speed of 40-50 km per hour (24-31 mph).

South Korea's Korail estimated in 2012 the total cost of repairing the railways in North Korea at $210 million for the eastern line and $96 million for the western line, though these figures may have since grown due to ongoing lack of repair and the effect of sanctions.

The trip will be the first time a South Korean train car has ever traveled along the North's eastern Donghae line from Mount Kumgang to the Tumen River. South Korean inspectors previously visited the North in 2007, to examine the Sinuiju to Kaesong section of the tracks, during a period of rapprochement.

The new trip will travel from Kaesong to Sinuiju near the border with China, down to Pyongyang, Wonsan and Anbyon before a trip to the Tumen River and a final return via Wonsan, Pyongyang and Kaesong to Seoul.

Im Jong-il, chief of the joint survey team, was also part of the 2007 inspection, which was carried out in the bitter Korean winter.

"(It was) very cold. As we rode the train, we had to conduct our survey while occasionally dodging the train coming from the opposite direction, which was difficult," he told reporters.

At least this time, the train is heated throughout, so inspectors can focus on looking at the tracks, rather than focusing on keeping warm.

"The team members are experts in this field so they will be able to tell aging by plain sight for the most parts. The result will depend on how much the North Korean officials will show us," Im said.

Sanctions headache

But while the two Koreas are steaming ahead in building stronger ties, the North remains subject to stringent international sanctions passed in response to its nuclear and missile testing.

The Trump administration has also expressed caution at the prospect of South Korea pushing ahead with inter-Korean projects, maintaining that sanctions provide an important diplomatic tool in holding the North accountable.

The team had to receive special permission from the United Nations to carry out the visit, and are under strict instructions to bring any leftover materials back to Seoul with them.

The sanctions have created a number of problems for the South Korean inspectors, who had to bring their own food, water and fuel, lest they breach sanctions by purchasing any from the North. The inspection team is also wary of the health risks posed by drinking or eating North Korean products.

"At last survey (in 2007) there was a lot of bellyache. So we are bringing lots of water," project manager Ji Yong-tae said.

A pool reporter who went on board the train before it departed said there were hundreds of bottles of water stacked in one of the compartments, adjacent to the two-meter-long sleeping pods where the inspectors will live for the next few weeks.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 86722

Reported Deaths: 1994
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin25264915
Ramsey10267314
Dakota6942124
Anoka5531131
Stearns362923
Washington345955
Scott232532
Olmsted223726
Nobles191416
Blue Earth15406
Wright14777
Carver13037
Rice12798
Mower12534
St. Louis123329
Clay119940
Sherburne105013
Kandiyohi9082
Winona72718
Lyon6244
Steele5062
Freeborn4903
Nicollet48716
Watonwan4844
Benton4793
Todd4722
Le Sueur4403
McLeod4332
Chisago4151
Waseca4118
Crow Wing40218
Otter Tail3674
Beltrami3624
Goodhue3179
Martin2809
Polk2574
Itasca25513
Becker2352
Carlton2261
Isanti2210
Douglas2191
Cottonwood2130
Pipestone2059
Pine1980
Morrison1841
Chippewa1821
Dodge1820
Sibley1663
Wabasha1640
Brown1582
Unassigned15752
Meeker1552
Murray1492
Yellow Medicine1421
Rock1390
Mille Lacs1333
Faribault1290
Cass1203
Jackson1201
Renville1176
Pennington1071
Houston1050
Roseau1050
Swift991
Fillmore980
Koochiching983
Kanabec958
Lincoln930
Redwood910
Stevens911
Pope810
Aitkin691
Hubbard650
Big Stone640
Wadena610
Grant574
Wilkin553
Norman510
Lake480
Marshall481
Mahnomen441
Red Lake370
Lac qui Parle360
Traverse290
Clearwater240
Lake of the Woods201
Kittson130
Cook60

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 76924

Reported Deaths: 1241
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk14988255
Johnson490727
Woodbury475459
Black Hawk425184
Linn3640102
Story321417
Dallas263238
Scott261427
Dubuque251840
Buena Vista191812
Pottawattamie189437
Marshall175234
Sioux12243
Wapello122057
Webster117914
Muscatine105152
Clinton102418
Cerro Gordo97721
Plymouth97520
Crawford9444
Warren9186
Jasper72032
Des Moines7137
Marion6874
Tama67830
Carroll6085
Lee5727
Wright5491
Henry5104
Dickinson4666
Bremer4497
Boone4346
Washington41411
Louisa41314
Franklin33017
Hamilton3123
Mahaska30919
Delaware3053
Jackson2803
Floyd2793
Winneshiek2745
Clay2663
Hardin2661
Benton2611
Clarke2533
Butler2512
Winnebago24711
Emmet24210
Shelby2381
Allamakee2355
Jones2313
Poweshiek2308
Clayton2243
Lyon2233
Buchanan2181
Cedar2101
Guthrie2095
Chickasaw1970
Kossuth1950
Grundy1932
Madison1922
Howard1764
Sac1760
Fayette1751
Iowa1741
Cherokee1732
Mitchell1720
Hancock1702
Humboldt1682
Harrison1642
Calhoun1612
Mills1541
Pocahontas1492
Palo Alto1480
Monroe1409
Page1400
Jefferson1291
Lucas1296
Cass1262
Monona1251
Taylor1171
Appanoose1163
Osceola1130
Union1123
Davis1104
Van Buren1081
Worth990
Keokuk841
Montgomery845
Greene790
Ida770
Wayne762
Fremont730
Adair591
Decatur580
Audubon501
Ringgold402
Adams270
Unassigned160
Rochester
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 54°
Mason City
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 60°
Albert Lea
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 57°
Austin
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 57°
Charles City
Clear
57° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 57°
Cooler to wrap up the work week
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sara's Evening Forecast - Friday

Image

Cedar River Rendezvous still on

Image

Hurricane Waldorf distrupting classes

Image

Regional Economic recovery

Image

Dooly's Shutdown due to health concerns

Image

Celebrating Rosh Hashana

Image

Governor Reynolds Touring New Health Clinic

Image

TikTok Will Be Banned This Weekend

Image

"Twin Demic" This Fall

Image

Sean's Weather 7/18

Community Events