Seoul to Beijing, through North Korea

FOR THE FIRST TIME IN over 50 years, South Koreans will be able to travel abroad overland – through their neighbor to the north.

South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il agreed at the end of their summit today that trains would be allowed to travel from Seoul to Beijing for the 2008 Olympic games, The Korea Times reported. It doesn’t appear that China had any sway in the decision.

The leaders also reaffirmed a 2005 agreement to allow direct flights from South Korea to Mount Baekdu, on the China/North Korea border. The practical aspects of that agreement have yet to realize, despite the South providing asphalt for necessary runway repairs.

With the accord to draft a peace treaty replacing the existing cease-fire that stopped – but didn’t officially end – the Korean War, it appears the Korean peninsula is entering a new phase of peace. The irony is that troops on both sides of the Joint Security Area stand guard ready to shoot each other at a moment’s notice.

These resolutions are a good start, but the eventual goal of a united Korea seems far off. What the two nations share in traditional culture likely pales in comparison to the chasm between their contemporary lifestyles, and the political sensibilities they shape. President Roh asserted that the 38th parallel dividing line he recently stepped over “will gradually be erased.” To the contrary: it will take a lot of stitching.

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