[FOUNTAIN]Kim Jong-il's Leisurely Journey

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[FOUNTAIN]Kim Jong-il's Leisurely Journey

The first railroad in Korea, Kyongin Railroads, between Seoul and Inchon, was open September 18, 1899. One day after the 33.2-kilometer section of the line between Noryangjin, Seoul, and Jemulpo, Inchon, was open, the following appeared in Dongnip Newspaper: "The sound from running the fire-driven coach was like thunder, and the sky and ground were vibrating. The smoke from the engine shot through the sky. Looking out of the carriage through the glass window, the mountain, sky, grass and trees were moving and seemed close enough to touch. Flying birds could not catch up with the coach." The over exaggeration is understandable, because the train could travel in a hour a distance that would take all day to walk.

Richard Trevithick pioneered the use of the steam engine, invented in 1776 by James Watt, for transportation. Mr. Trevithick first used the steam engine train in 1801, and in 1808 he was recruiting passengers for his train equipped with a high-pressure steam engine. Trevithick built a circular track in London and charged 1 shilling for the ride, the amount of money a laborer earned for a day's work. Trevithick named the 8-kilometers-per-hour train Catch-Me-Who-can. In 1829, George Stevenson built a train with a maximum speed of 48 kilometers per hour and opened the first railroad in the world. People called the train "rocket." It must have been a time when exaggeration was natural.

A high-speed train, which can reach speeds as high as 300 kilometer per hour, will go into operation sometime soon in Korea. The railway is still romantic transportation for people who are not enthusiastic about the myth of speed. Seven days and six nights are required to travel from Vladivostok to Moscow on the worlds longest railway line, the Trans Siberian Railroad, which stretches for 9,300 kilometers. The Siberian Railroad is a fantasy for people who enjoy the beauty of a relaxed attitude.

Kim Jong-il, the chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea, finally arrived at Moscow Thursday night after eight nights and nine days of traveling across the Ural Mountains and Siberian plain. There are rumors about fear of heights, lack of a private airplane, and security issues, answers as to why Mr. Kim chose the lengthy travel by train for a trip that would take 10 hours by airplane. Moreover, a report that there were bullet marks on the wall of the train Mr. Kim took made the trip even more mysterious. We will have to acknowledge his laid-back attitude, stopping every now and then and enjoying Web surfing on a 21-carriage train with 150 attendants. I wish with his laid-back attitude he could make a breakthrough in talks between the Koreas.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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