North and South Korea to Begin Work on Inter-Korean Railroad as Push for Peace Gathers Steam

Reconciliation efforts between North and South Korea have gathered momentum as the two sides have agreed to begin work on an ambitious project to link the transport networks of the neighboring nations.

The project was one of a host of agreements made at high-level talks held in the border village of Panmunjom Monday, The Associated Press reported.

South Korea's Unification Ministry released a joint statement following the meeting, which explained, "The South and North reached the agreement after sincerely discussing action plans to develop inter-Korean relations to a new, higher stage."

The works to connect railways and roads across the border will be inaugurated in late November or early December, the ministry said. Joint field studies on the transport proposals will begin later this month.

The Monday meeting was a follow-up on September's summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang. It was the third such meeting between the two men this year as the peninsula enjoys an unexpected thaw in relations.

The transportation project will restore links cut since the start of the Korean War in 1950. A peace treaty was never signed between the two sides, and discussions over a formal end to the war have been a key element of recent reconciliation efforts.

Representatives said they would hold Red Cross talks in North Korea in November to arrange video conference calls for families split up by the Korean War, which ended in 1953. It has also been suggested that face-to-face meetings—currently held sporadically for a small number of citizens—could be increased.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, right, talks with North Korean delegation head Ri Son Gwon, left, during talks on October 15, in Panmunjom, South Korea. Reconciliation efforts between North and South Korea have gained momentum. Korea Pool/Getty Images

It was also agreed that the North and South would soon hold high-level military discussions to help reduce tensions along the heavily defended border and establish a committee to improve communication and avoid accidental military confrontations.

Last month, Moon and Kim said the two sides would create land and sea buffer zones and a no-fly zone above the border. They also planned to remove 11 front-line guard posts by December and de-mine certain parts of the Demilitarized Zone, the AP reported.

Inter-Korean cooperation was one of the main stories to come out of the Winter Olympics held in South Korea in February. The two nations fielded a joint women's ice hockey team and athletes from both countries marched together at the opening ceremony.

Monday's talks addressed plans to send more joint teams to the 2020 Summer Olympics and a bid to co-host the 2032 games.

South Korean Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said the continued talks between the two nations were fast achieving a range of agreements. North Korean official Ri Son Gwon, who leads the hermit kingdom's agency overseeing relations between the two neighbors, said that "no group and no force will be able to prevent the path toward peace, prosperity and our nation's unification."