[VIEWPOINT]Forging a link

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[VIEWPOINT]Forging a link

There is a sign at the Demilitarized Zone that says travelers cannot continue northward. I think that many South Koreans wish they could keep on going. Reconciliation between the South and North, a relationship built on trust and one that might lead to co-prosperity, has long been our great hope. Many of us travelers have been dreaming of such a trip for the past half century and now, slowly, it may be getting closer. We have heard the sound of a train whistle at Dorasan Station, which was recently opened at the southern limit of the DMZ in preparation for a reconnection of the Gyeongui Line -- a railroad connecting Seoul with Sinuiju in the North. It is our belief that a rail connection in the North will also start in the near future.

The railroad is expected to cross the Korean Peninsula from South to North, then go through Siberia and extend its arm well into Europe. The Korean Peninsula is destined to become the sweet spot at a location where Western Europe and East Asia meet. This "Iron Silk Road" will catapult the country into the middle of one of the largest economic areas.

Travelers will be able to cross the vastness of Russia. Russia, which has been undergoing a tremendous change since the 1990s, is now ready to make a great leap forward, as its economy is stabilizing and its growth potential is growing larger. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president who is interested in expanding strategic cooperation with Western Europe as well as with the United States by strengthening Russia's relations with NATO, is continuing his efforts to build a new world order in which the main theme is cooperation rather than confrontation.

The railroad that is going to connect the two Koreas will not only contribute to inter-Korean trade and exchanges, but it will bring new vitality to the Trans-Siberian Railroad, which connects East Asia with the European continent. The new rail connection between South Korea and Russia will not only bring our two countries together, but it will work as a catalyst to boost our 12-year-old relationship with Russia. A new relationship will be built in which both countries' cultures, economies and political ideologies are improved for the better.

The rail line will also provide momentum for Koreans to recover from the loss they endured during the Cold War era and prepare for building peace and security in East Asia. From July 14 to July 30, the project "Korea-Russia Friendship Express" will travel the length of Russia via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. A Korean delegation of 250 people, including government officials, students and businessmen from various industries, will participate in the project. They will visit such Russian cities as Vladivostok, Irkutsk and St. Petersburg. At St. Petersburg, the delegation plans to pay homage to Lee Bum-jin, Korea's first ambassador to Russia. Russia is a European country, but at the same time it is an Asian nation.

Tolstoy said that not accepting Asia is not accepting the truth. The Russians now await a group of Asians -- with open arms and full hearts.

The writer is Korean ambassador to Russia.

by Chung Tae-ik

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