South Korea has become a full member of the Organization for Cooperation between Railways (OSJD), a move that is expected to allow the country to fulfill its long-time wish of connecting it with neighbors in Eurasia via rail, after winning North Korea’s vote in a ministerial meeting held in Kyrgyzstan.
The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport said on Thursday that OSJD unanimously voted to allow South Korea to become a full member of the international organization founded in 1956 to promote international railway agreements and projects between the former Soviet Union and East-European bloc countries. The organization was set up to establish rail transport-related systems in Eurasia including those of continental railroads, as well as arrange transport agreements and promote technology partnerships among its member countries.
Currently, 28 countries are full members of OSJD including North Korea, China, and Russia and seven countries hold observer status. The organization also has 40 global entities as partnership members.
South Korea’s full membership position will enable it to join operations of up to 280,000-kilometer international route such as Trans China Railway and Trans-Siberian Railway.
South Korea had attempted a few times to join OSJD since 2015, but all its previous attempts fell through due to objection of North Korea. When South Korea attempted to become a member in a meeting in April in Da Nang, Vietnam, in April, it could not even raise the issue as an official agenda.
But a dramatic u-turn was made with North Korea voting in favor of South Korea’s membership after the two Koreas in recent high-level talks agreed to cooperate to revamp the railway systems in the North and connect the two Koreas via rail.
Seoul and Pyongyang will hold working-level sectional meetings in the end of this month to discuss ways to connect the two separated countries via rail and road.
By Yeon Gyu-wook and Lee Eun-joo
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