South Korea Proposes Idea To Haul Fans to Germany for World Cup by Cross-Continental Train

SEOUL South Korea (AP) - South Korea's railway operator said Wednesday it hopes to transport soccer fans to the World Cup in Germany on a special train via North Korea and Russia's Trans-Siberian railway.

State-funded Korea Railroad Corp. said the train if realized would depart from the southern port city of Busan in May and cross North Korea to reach Russia's Vladivostok where passengers will transfer to the Trans-Siberian railroad. It would arrive in Germany ahead of the World Cup which is starts in June.

One potential sticking point however could be the cooperation of North Korea.

"The project is still in the initial stage said Park Chun-seong a spokesman for Korea Railroad Corp. "We plan to hold talks on this with North Korea."

Company president Lee Chul will raise the project during an upcoming visit to North Korea Park said.

Inter-Korean rail and road links were severed when the Korean Peninsula was divided into the Soviet-controlled North and the U.S.-controlled South after Korea's liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.

The two sides went to war in 1950-53 and technically remain in a state of conflict as the battle ended in a truce not a peace treaty.

Relations between the two sides have warmed significantly since their leaders met for the first time in 2000.

One of the most tangible signs of a thaw in their ties was a project to reinstate two sets of rail and road links across the world's most heavily fortified border.

The project is almost complete.

Two road links have already been restored and are used to transport South Koreans to work at a Southern-run industrial complex in North Korea and for sightseeing at North Korea's Diamond Mountain.

One of the two rail links was also reconnected though is not yet in use with the other link almost complete.

Park said that if the special train project happens it will use the reconnected railway in the western part of the Korean Peninsula.

Fully reconnected inter-Korean railways and their connection with the Trans-Siberian railway will provide export-driven South Korea an alternative to shipping its goods to Western Europe by sea.

Former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung hopes to visit North Korea by train in April to meet leader Kim Jong Il his aide said Wednesday.