Monday, January 21, 2008

Korea Railway Talks Stall

Sources: BBC, Bloomberg

Talks between North and South Korea regarding a national railway connecting the divided countries stalled. Officials in Pyong’yang sought a delay, claiming that “time constraints” and “lack of preparation” prevented useful talks. The talks were supposed to take place between Jan 22-23 in Gaesong.

South Korea has sought stronger ties with their Northern neighbors, and has seen some limited success. For example, in December 2007 a daily freight train service was launched between South Korea and the Kaesong Industrial Area in the North. South Korea has also requested passenger services to North Korea, but this offer has been rebuffed by Pyong'yang.

It is believed that North Korea suspended these talks in light of the new incoming president. North Korea is wary of the new president because he intends to conduct inter-Korea relations through the foreign ministry instead of the Unification ministry. New President Lee Myung Bak has also made some comments suggesting he will take a more tough stance against North Korea.

Question: How much will an inter-Korea railway service affect reunification efforts? Do you think President Lee, in light of his comments, can work with the North Koreans to promote peace and increased ties?

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