|An inter-Korean inspection team examines train tracks in North Hwanghae Province in this photo. Courtesy of Unification Ministry|
By Kim Bo-eun
Inspections of South and North Korean officials of the North's eastern railway line will begin Saturday, after the Koreas completed checking the main western line on Wednesday.
From Saturday to Dec. 17, officials will check 800 kilometers of tracks from Mount Geumgang to the Tumen.
It will be the first time a South Korean train will run on this section of tracks since the Koreas were divided in 1945.
About two-thirds of the officials on the team will be exchanged for the eastern inspection, considering their condition, a unification ministry official said, Thursday. Officials who completed the examination of the western tracks returned to Seoul on Wednesday, and a new team will depart Seoul on Saturday.
"The officials will be exchanged, under the condition that the consistency of the project remains unchanged," the official said.
The new team will first take a bus to the North and examine the tracks from Mount Geumgang Station to Anbyon Station by bus. From Anbyon, they will take the train.
The North reportedly requested South Korean officials examine that particular section by bus.
The South Korean trains that went to the North for the first inspection did not return, and headed straight from Pyongyang for Anbyon.
The team that returned from the first inspection stated the train tracks there were in poor condition, allowing trains to run up to only 60 kilometers per hour.
Lim Jong-il, director of the land ministry's railway construction division, said the tracks for the Gaeseong-Sinuiju route were more or less in the same condition as when inspections were conducted 11 years ago.
Lim was part of the inter-Korean inspection team in 2007.
He said the six-day inspection was too short to examine the tracks in detail, and that plans for repairs would be set up once detailed inspections take place.
Six South Korean carriages and five of the North carrying about 50 to 60 officials carried out the first inspection.