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(LEAD) U.N. grants sanctions exemption for inter-Korean project's groundbreaking ceremony

All Headlines 13:41 December 25, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with shipment of materials to the North in paras 5-6)

SEOUL, Dec. 25 (Yonhap) -- The United Nations Security Council has granted a sanctions waiver to enable the Koreas to hold a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for their project to modernize and reconnect roads and railways across the border this week, a Seoul official said Tuesday.

South and North Korea are preparing to hold the event Wednesday at Panmun Station in the North's border town of Kaesong. The project is part of the summit agreement reached between their leaders in April aimed at fostering balanced development and co-prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.

"Consultations over the groundbreaking ceremony with the council's North Korea sanctions committee were wrapped up Monday, New York time," a foreign ministry official said.

While the groundbreaking ceremony itself is not subject to sanctions imposed on the North, the waiver was needed for the train that South Korean officials are planning to take, as well as for other materials necessary for the event, to enter the North.

The Seoul government said it sent related materials and some 30 officials to North Korea on Tuesday.

Another group of South Koreans were dispatched to the North on Monday for the preparatory work.

South Korea reportedly sought the sanctions exemption from the U.N. after consulting with the United States during their working group meeting on North Korea held in Seoul last week.

After the meeting, Lee Do-hoon, Seoul's top nuclear envoy, said the groundbreaking ceremony will be held in North Korea as scheduled.

Ranking officials from the Koreas -- including South Korea's Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon and Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee, as well as Ri Son-gwon, the chairman of the North's state agency in charge of inter-Korean ties, and Kim Yun-hyok, the North's railway minister -- are planning to attend the ceremony.

Seoul earlier set aside around 700 million won (US$618,000) to hold the event, which will be attended by some 100 people from each Korea.

A KORAIL train enters South Korea's northernmost Dorasan Station in Paju, north of Seoul, on Dec. 18, 2018, after completing an 18-day inspection of the 400-kilometer railway between the North Korean cities of Kaesong and Sinuiju. (pool photo) (Yonhap)


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