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S. Korean train enters N. Korea for first time in 11 years

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A South Korean train transporting dozens of South Korean officials runs on the rails which leads to North Korea, inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. South Korea sent rail cars and dozens of o

A South Korean train transporting dozens of South Korean officials runs on the rails which leads to North Korea, inside the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. South Korea sent rail cars and dozens of officials to North Korea on Friday for joint surveys on northern railway sections the countries hope someday to connect with the South. (Kim Hong-Ji/Pool Photo via AP)

Kim Hong-Ji, Pool Reuters

SALT LAKE CITY — A South Korean train is entering North Korea for the first time since 2007.

What’s going on: According to BBC News, the train will carry a team of South Korean specialists through the Demilitarized Zone and into North Korea to assess the state of the rail system.

  • The team will work to see what needs to be done in order to bring North Korea’s rails to an international standard and make it possible to reopen the rail between the two countries, The New York Times reported.
  • As reported by The Washington Post, the trip will consist of two stages. First, the specialists will survey the central to northwestern rail. Then they will travel near the Mount Kumgang tourist region and up the east coast to a station near the Russian border.
  • “You will visit train stations and cross hills and rivers in North Korea no outsiders have visited,” Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon told the survey team, according to the Washington Post.
  • According to CNN, President Moon Jae-in has “long dreamed” of building a trans-Korean railroad because of the economic benefits that would result in being more easily connected to China and Russia. The railway would also be a huge step in the relationship between the two countries.

Complications: The Washington Post reported that in order for the trip to happen, South Korea had to receive special permission from the UN due to sanctions that are currently in place on North Korea.

  • According to CNN, the team was given strict instruction that any food, fuel or water remaining at the end of the trip must return with them to South Korea.
  • Unless the North follows through on denuclearization, the sanctions will prevent the South from providing further resources to update the rail system, per The New York Times.

The history of the inter-Korean railways: Before the Korean War, two rail systems connected the northern and southern parts of the Korean Peninsula, per AFP.

  • In 2007, a western rail was reconnected and a South Korean train ran between the two countries five times a week, according to The New York Times.
  • The cross-border route was discontinued in 2008 when the relationship between the North and South grew worse due to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, per The New York Times.