and North Koreans to travel by train
to Beijing Olympics
North and South Korea are about to create
their first “official” joint cheering
squad for an international sports event.
Even better, the cheering squad is going to
go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics via the Seoul-Sinuiju
railway connecting North and South Korea.
The North and South Koreans who have cheered
on each others’ teams at winter and summer
Olympic events and at the Asian Games and various
world championships have merely cheered “together” in
a pre-agreed but unofficial capacity, with
sports audiences from the two Koreas arriving
separately and gathering as events began. This
is what makes the decision to send a joint
cheering squad by train so significant. Having
a joint Korean cheering squad travel across
the DMZ by train and enter China will have
the effect of sending a message of Korean peace
and reconciliation to the whole world.
Making it happen, however, will require that
a few issues are resolved.
First there is the issue of the train itself.
The Seoul-Sinuiju line had a short test run
of 27.3 kilometers, from Munsan in the South
to Gaeseong in the North, on May 17. The rest
of the route has not been tested and so it
remains to be seen whether it can be used for
travel. There will also need to be authorization
from the Chinese about having the special train
Since it was agreed at the summit that the
track will be repaired, it looks like there
will be little problem with the section of
the route to Beijing that is on the Korean
peninsula. When it comes to China, however,
there is a technical problem in that while
the inter-Korean train runs on electricity,
Chinese trains run on diesel.
Kim Hak-tae of Korail, Korea’s national
railroad, however, is not worried.
“When the head of China’s Ministry
of Railways visited Korea in November last
year, he proposed a 2,048 kilometer route from
Busan to Beijing,” said Kim. “So
I don’t think there will be any technical
The second problem is about convenience. If
the train runs at the speed of 60 kilometers
per hour, it will take 12 hours from Busan
to Pyongyang and 22 hours from Pyongyang to
Beijing, indicating that it will take up to
34 hours from Busan to Beijing. Moreover, it
is known that trains cannot travel fast on
the Gyeongui Line due to its old railroads.
According to Korail, however, as high-quality
tourist trains in which passengers can eat
and sleep are under development, inconvenience
stemming from long journeys will be relieved.
if such problems are solved, complicated
problems still remain in connection with
the details such as the size of a joint cheering
squad, the way to form it and the time to
launch it. Related authorities in the South
and the North should meet to discuss these
Baik Seong-il, an official of the Korea Sports
Council, said that the agreement reached
at the second inter-Korean summit will help
the sports and culture of both sides dramatically
develop. He said, “Various levels of
working-level groups, including civic organizations,
are going to begin an operation to form a
joint cheering squad.”
Regarding this, The Hankyoreh Foundation
for Reunification and Culture once suggested
forming a 2,000-strong - 1,000 from each
side - joint cheering squad for the 2008
Beijing Olympics last year.