Koreas' potential rail links could be echo for peace from the first Transcon

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The Koreas
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SEOUL, South Korea — Though officially still at war, North and South Korean leaders are discussing ways to some day bring their divided nation closer together — using railroads.

Published reports indicate that little physical work re-connecting North and South Korea by rail can happen while severe international sanctions are in place against the Communist-controlled North, but the possibility remains. Specifically, leaders from the two countries discussed re-connecting a rail line between Seoul, South Korea's capital and largest city, and Sinuiju, a western city near North Korea's border with China.

The two sides also recently discussed re-opening an eastern route that once connected South Koreans with a tourist resort in the North. Both routes were built under colonist Japanese governments in 1905 and 1937, respectively. The Associated Press reports that South Korean officials hope to connect the southern port city of Busan with North Korea industrial centers, and eventually, Russia's Trans-Siberian Railway.

That there is so much buzz about railroad links as part of relationship talks between North Korea and South Korea is little surprise to John Hankey.

Hankey, a noted American railroad historian and Trains Magazine blogger who pens about the completion of the world's first Transcontinental Railroad, says linking rail lines is a relatively simple and inexpensive gesture of friendship that transcends any immediate economic benefits.

"It is the symbolism that is important, and it brings to mind our own Pacific railroad project," Hankey tells Trains News Wire. "The details differed, but the decision to actually connect our coasts unfolded in the context of longstanding cultural and economic differences, a brutal civil war, and a struggle for reunification."

Hankey says he doubts there will be much traffic across the infamous Demilitarized Zone, or DMZ, that has been in place since 1953, but that ambitions to link to other networks may be key for future peace.

"One of the explicit goals of our first Transcon was to help realize the dream of a continental United States. Another was to be a bridge from Asia to Europe and everywhere in between. Reliable transportation is a powerful elixir," Hankey says. "I suspect that is very much on the minds of Koreans on both sides of the DMZ."

See the Associated Press article online via the New York Post

Read John Hankey's blog at TrainsMag.com.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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