By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, April 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korea plans to exempt a rail construction project along the east coast from a preliminary feasibility study as part of efforts to kick-start a long-stalled project to reconnect inter-Korean railways, the unification ministry said Monday.
A civilian-government committee on inter-Korean exchanges will meet around Thursday to discuss designating the planned construction of a 110.9-kilometer-long railway as an inter-Korean cooperative project entitled to exemption from a preliminary feasibility survey, officials said.
Such an exemption would shorten the construction period.
The envisioned railway connects the east coast city of Gangneung to the coastal border town of Jejin. The government hopes to ultimately link the Ganngneung-Jejin line to a North Korean railway across the heavily armed border.
South and North Korea have seen little progress in their push to reconnect railways across their border since their leaders agreed to do so as part of cross-border reconciliation and balanced economic development in the region.
President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to modernize and reconnect severed railways during their April 27 summit in 2018 and held a groundbreaking ceremony for the project in December of the same year.
South Korean experts and officials visited the northern section to examine their conditions several times, but actual construction has not yet started in the face of global sanctions banning inter-Korean economic cooperation amid a deadlock in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.
With little prospect for the resumption of such cross-border projects anytime soon, South Korea has pushed to repair the southern section of railways in an effort to prepare for full-swing cooperation down the road.
In a related move, the ministry said it will hold an event in the eastern border town of Goseong next Monday on the occasion of the second anniversary of the April summit and to voice its strong commitment to push for the reconnection of the Gangneung-Jejin railway.
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