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Rail link reunites Koreas

Fireworks rise from the site during the ground breaking ceremony of the historic railway and highway reconstruction
Fireworks rise from the site during the ground breaking ceremony of the historic railway and highway reconstruction

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CNN's Sohn Jie-ae reports on the groundbreaking for construction of a railway and road to link South and North Korea. (September 18)
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DORASAN, South Korea -- The Cold War's last frontier was breached Wednesday as work began on a railway to link long-time rivals South and North Korea.

Severed for half a century, officials from both countres expressed hope the "monumental" project would bring peace to their divided peninsula.

The ceremony amidst the fanfare of fireworks came just a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il apologized to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for the abduction of Japanese citizens. (Outrage over admission)

Rail links, some built by the Japanese, have been cut since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Technically, the two Koreas are still at war because the conflict ended in a truce.

"Today we are standing at the start of a new era during which the South and the North will move forward hand in hand toward the future," said South Korean Acting Prime Minister Kim Suk-soo in a speech at Dorasan Station on the west coast.

"We are burying a history marked by the scars of war and the pain of division," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

At Dorasan Train Station on the western border, the last South Korean stop on a rail line to be linked with the North, Kim Suk-soo said the project opened a new chapter in turbulent inter-Korean relations.

"We stand at the starting point of a monumental project, from which the South and the North join hands, put the war-torn history behind and march forward," he said in a nationally televised speech.

Mine hazard

Workers opened a barbed wire fence leading to the border, and a two-train car blew a whistle and moved 15 meters (yards) in a symbolic gesture. Hundreds of people applauded.

North Korean Prime Minister Hong Song Nam led a ceremony on the eastern sector of the northern border. North Korea said about 3,000 people attended the ceremony, The Associated Press reported.

Two transportation corridors are to be built through the four kilometer (2.5-mile)-wide no-mans zone separating the sides. Workers were to start clearing mines from the heavily fortified zone later Wednesday.

If plans go smoothly, a cross-border road on the eastern sector will be re-linked as early as November and a cross-border railway on the western sector by year's end.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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