Korail set to launch Eurasia route

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Korail set to launch Eurasia route

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Korea Railroad Corporation (Korail) on Tuesday announced the launch of the Eurasia Friendship Express railway project, which will embark on a 20-day journey in mid-July across five countries over 14,400 kilometers (8,948 miles).

In keeping with its Eurasia Initiative, the railway will run from July 14 to Aug. 2 and run through some 10 cities in Russia, Poland, Germany, China and Mongolia, traveling a distance that spans a third of the way around the world.

The Eurasia Express will have two routes. The main pathway will run through the Russian cities of Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Moscow, to Warsaw in Poland and Berlin in Germany, traversing 11,900 kilometers.

The other branch will run from Beijing to Irkutsk, Russia, covering 2,500 kilometers.

The expedition’s participants will travel via train from cities throughout Korea, including Busan and Mokpo, and gather on July 14 at Seoul Station. The group will then travel by air to Beijing or Vladivostok to depart on the train the following day.

Nearly 400 people, ranging from government officials, lawmakers, academics, businessmen, artists, cultural leaders and press, are expected to take part in the Eurasia expedition. There will also be cultural, economic and academic events at stops along each city across Asia and Europe.

The railroad project, an example of President Park Geun-hye’s Eurasia Initiative, is expected to launch a train route over the summer that will stop at major points on the envisioned Silk Road Express and hold events to promote trade and cultural and diplomatic exchanges.

This includes visits to historic sites honoring independence fighters, Korean film festivals and concerts, photo exhibitions and seminars on each region.

“This friendship express connects all of our distribution alliance partners, the Trans-Siberian Railway (TSR), Trans-China Railway (TCR) and the Trans-Mongolian Railway (TMGR),” Park Chul-min, the director-general for European Affairs at the Foreign Ministry, said Tuesday at a joint press conference with Korail at Seoul Station. “In case South and North Korea are linked through a Trans-Korean Railway (TKR), a railway route that travels non-stop from Busan and Mokpo to Berlin will be introduced.”

In October 2013, President Park announced her vision for the Eurasia Initiative, a plan to boost the regional economy through free trade and economic cooperation in the Eurasian bloc.

As part of the initiative, she proposed a railroad that would connect the Korean Peninsula to Russia, China, Central Asia and on to Europe.

The Silk Road Express may eventually be linked to Russia’s Trans-Siberian Railway and Trans-China Railways through North Korea, which could potentially promote economic cooperation and unification on the peninsula.

The Eurasia Friendship Express project will be launched to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the liberation of Korea from Japanese colonial rule and the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and Russia and Korea and Mongolia.

The Korea-Russia Friendship Express ran for two weeks in July 2002, and promoted travel and cultural exchanges via the Trans-Siberian Railway.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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