Infrastructure projects may bring peace to Korean Peninsula

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South Korean Consul-General Yonghyon Kim
South Korean Consul-General Yonghyon Kim speaks during the 31st Annual Rhode Island Transportation Forum, held recently at the University of Rhode Island's Memorial Union URI photo by Michael Salerno Photography.

KINGSTON, R.I. – November 19, 2018 — Not long ago, the relationship between North Korea and South Korea was extremely volatile. With the North conducting nuclear weapons tests, many thought the region could be on the brink of a military conflict.

A year later, thanks to a series of diplomatic initiatives, the tension between the neighboring countries has subsided greatly and the nations’ leaders are planning infrastructure projects that will connect the two Koreas.

At the 31st Annual Rhode Island Transportation Forum, held recently at the University of Rhode Island’s Memorial Union, South Korean Consul-General Yonghyon Kim presented a keynote address on how these transportation projects will play an important role in establishing lasting peace between the two countries.

“Our vision goes far beyond the denuclearization of North Korea, to creating lasting peace and prosperity,” Kim told the audience at the forum. “Land transportation infrastructure will play a key starting role in that vision.”

Kim’s message fit perfectly with the theme of this year’s forum, which was “Transportation Infrastructure Durability and Sustainable System for Eternal Peace and Prosperity.”

Forum attendees and speakers included U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, URI President David M. Dooley, representatives of state and federal transportation agencies, and faculty and students from URI’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Last April, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un agreed to adopt practical steps toward the connection and modernization of the railways and roads.

“Re-establishing the land transportation network between two Koreas will facilitate regional cooperation in energy, natural resources and logistics and contribute to establishing a long-lasting regime of peace and prosperity in the Korean peninsula,” Kim stated.

South Korea has earmarked more than $260 million for cross-border projects, despite international sanctions on North Korea.

“Given North Korea’s track record, some people are understandably skeptical of the intention of Kim Jong Un, while others are worried that the inter-Korean cooperation is going too fast and may undermine efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

“Dialogues about inter-Korean economic cooperation should not undermine sanctions against North Korea. It is only aimed at presenting North Korea with a picture of a bright future should it make real progress in denuclearization, to induce North Korea towards a desirable direction,” said Kim.