Railway group accepts South as a member

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Railway group accepts South as a member

South Korea has officially been approved as a member of the Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD), which could allow it to extend its railroads beyond the Korean Peninsula.

South Korea’s membership in the organization was confirmed during an OSJD ministerial conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Thursday. The admission comes after a number of failed attempts in the past - including in 2000 and again in 2015 - hampered by objections from North Korea.

The OSJD is an international organization established in 1956 to promote cooperation among member countries in development of railway networks in Europe and Asia. To become a member requires unanimous consent by members, which numbered 28 before South Korea joined. North Korea is a founding member state of the organization, which also includes Russia, Mongolia, Hungary and Poland.

South Korea gaining full membership in the OSJD could pave the way for the country to link its railroads to mainland Asia and as far as the continent of Europe.

Connecting railroads through North Korea to the Trans-Siberian Railway and Trans-China Railway would allow South Korean passengers and freight to travel as far as Paris via train. The Trans-Siberian Railway is a 9,288-kilometer-long (5,771 miles) network that traverses Russia and western Europe. The Trans-China Railway goes across mainland China through major cities such as Beijing and Zhangzhou.

“With the admission, South Korea is effectively a part of important international conventions such as the Agreement on International Goods Transport by Rail (SMGS) and the Agreement on Direct International Carriage of Passengers and Luggage by Rail and Procedure Instruction (SMPS), essential to utilize Eurasian railroads,” said the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in a press release on Thursday.

Kim Young-tae, secretary general of the International Transport Forum (ITF), a body under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that annually gathers transport ministers across the world to discuss transport issues, who was previously head of transport policy coordination for South Korea’s Transport Ministry, welcomed the decision by the OSJD.

“North Korea not opposing the membership is significant,” said Kim. “South Korea has been like an island because of North Korea, but membership in the OSJD gives the country the groundwork to get connected all the way to Europe through the mainland.”

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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