North and South Korea began regular cargo train service across their heavily armed border yesterday for the first time in more than a half century, in another symbolic step in their reconciliation.
The 12-car train carried construction materials to a North Korean border station, and then returned home carrying shoes, underwear and other items produced at a South-North joint industrial complex in Kaesong.
The service is one of the tangible results of an October summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun that outlined a series of joint projects. It comes months after the two sides conducted a one-time test run of passenger trains on two reconnected tracks on the western and eastern sides of the Korean Peninsula.
The cargo train is to make a 16.5km round trip every weekday to North Korea. It remains unclear whether regular passenger train service will start anytime soon, but one of the train's engineers was hopeful yesterday.
"I expect a day will come when South Koreans visit North Korean tourist attractions freely by train," Shin Jang-chul, whose parents are from what is now North Korea, told reporters before departing.
South Korea hopes the inter-Korean railway will ultimately be linked through North Korea to Russia's Trans-Siberian railroad and allow an overland route connecting the peninsula to Europe.
"Though we start with a cargo train, it will lead to a passenger train service and will soon be linked to the continental trains," Lee Chul, president of Korea Railroad, told reporters. "The economic benefits are countless."
The cargo rail service is likely to give a further boost to the sprawling Kaesong complex, which marries South Korean technology and management expertise with the North's cheap labor.
Currently, 64 South Korean companies operate factories there, employing about 21,600 North Korean workers and producing a range of goods including watches, clothing and shoes.
Meanwhile, South Korea's navy rescued five North Korean fisherman who drifted for 27 days after their ship's engine failed and ended up in Southern waters, Yonhap news agency reported yesterday.
The five were being treated for hypothermia and malnutrition, and would be allowed to return to the North if they so wished, Yonhap quoted a South Korean navy official as saying.
In other news, Pyongyang accused the US yesterday of being reckless criminals trying to stir up war with its recent deployment of fighter jets and other armaments in and around South Korea.
"Such moves are a part of the US conservative hardliners' invariable hostile policy toward the DPRK [North Korea] and a reckless criminal act of chilling the denuclearization process in the Korean Peninsula and driving the situation into the brink of war," said the communist party mouthpiece, Rodong Sinmun.
The report comes just days after US President George W. Bush made his first direct appeal to Kim Jong-il in a letter delivered last week. Bush urged Kim to make good on his country's pledge to disable its nuclear arms complex and declare all of its nuclear activities.
KEEP AWAY: People should wear a mask in places where they cannot follow social distancing rules, the CECC said, adding that it would publish detailed guidelines today The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday announced 16 new cases of COVID-19, including two domestic cases, as it urged people to practice social distancing in public spaces by keeping a distance of at least 1m when outdoors and 1.5m indoors. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that seven of the new cases tested positive upon their arrival at the airport, four were under home quarantine, one was under home isolation and two were under self-health management, while the two domestic cases sought treatment on their own. The domestic cases are a man in his
Taiwan will negotiate with the WHO about its participation without Beijing’s help and intervention as more countries, including Australia and Japan, are partnering with Taiwan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a telephonic roundtable with reporters on Monday also supported Taiwan’s role in the WHO, saying the US Department of State would do its best to assist Taiwan’s “appropriate role” in the world’s highest health policy setting body, Voice of America reported. In a Japan Business Press report published on Sunday, Chinese Ambassador to Japan Kong Xuanyou (孔鉉佑) said
Japan’s ruling party yesterday proposed the nation’s biggest-ever stimulus package of ￥60 trillion (US$554 billion) as the COVID-19 pandemic locks the economy in a recession. The sum includes ￥20 trillion in fiscal measures with private initiatives and other elements likely making up the rest, the proposal by the Liberal Democratic Party showed. More than ￥10 trillion, or the equivalent of a 5 percentage point cut in the sales tax rate, would be handed out to the public in a combination of cash, subsidies and coupons, the plan showed. The proposal puts an initial figure on a stimulus package that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo
Malaysian authorities have advised women to wear makeup, not to nag their husbands and speak with a cartoon character’s soothing voice during the virus lockdown, sparking a flood of mockery online. Like many countries, Malaysia has ordered all citizens to stay at home to stem the spread of COVID-19, which, as of yesterday, had killed at least 39,070 people globally. In a series of online posters with the hashtag #WomenPreventCOVID19, the Malaysian Ministry of Women and Family Development issued advice on how to avoid domestic conflicts during the partial lockdown, which began on March 18. One of the campaign posters depicted