Building a new reality for the Korean peninsula takes grit, skill, and commitment

Deploying military force will not ease the tensions on the Korean peninsula. (Credit: Wacharaklin/Bigstock)
Deploying military force will not ease the tensions on the Korean peninsula. (Credit: Wacharaklin/Bigstock) (via:

Globalization is all about dismantling inherited barriers to interaction.

International collaboration within the expert community forms the broader foundations for political cooperation.

Xi Jinping’s speech at this year’s Davos Forum stressed how globalization must mean stripping away barriers to economic cooperation.

At the DOC Research Institute, we have long considered infrastructure development the backbone for economic development at local, regional, or national levels and even beyond.

The Russian initiative promoting trans-Eurasian-belt development, especially when taken together with China’s OBOR, is further testimony to the importance of developing trans-border infrastructure.

As we consider the recent developments between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (or South Korea), and seek to understand its origins, we should recognize that it is the product of a great many steps taken at a number of levels over the preceding years.

As hostile as the public political rhetoric has been, there has also been a solid background of positive interaction at other levels, including those focused on infrastructure.

In August 2001, the Russian-North Korean Summit took place in Moscow. One of the announcements to come out of that meeting was a Russian-North Korean initiative that saw the launch of tripartite consultations between Russian Railways, North Korean Railways, and South Korean Railways regarding the potential for developing a trans-Korean railway. I was involved in leading this on the Russian side.

These were the first in a crucial series of meetings between railway representatives from each of the three countries, and they delivered results. The politics of cooperation that we see taking bold new steps today were in a sense prefigured by those earlier meetings. Those early stages of cooperation could not have been possible without significant political support on all sides. That support was clearly in evidence.

One proposal was to link the North and South Korean railways. The work already completed – on the Russia-North Korea stage – had delivered palpable economic and social development benefits.

If you look at the socio-economic development impact gained from modernizing the stretch of track from Khasan in Russia to the North Korean port of Rajin, and from building a coal terminal there (that can be expanded into a container terminal), it serves as a clear and positive precedent of rail infrastructure playing a key role in promoting growth.

This project of rebuilding the trans-Korean railway and linking it to the trans-Siberian railway will be an important element in broader economic cooperation between North and South Korea. But it will be more than that. It will lay the foundations for further political interaction between the two states, and one people.

This positive influence will impact the political situation on the Korean peninsula and beyond.