"We are reporting our departure for inter-Korean joint rail inspections. We will do our best to operate safely for 7.3 kilometers from the South's Dorasan station to the North's Panmun station. Salute to our distinguished guests "
With that salute to South Korean officials, Seoul's researchers and train cars left for the joint on-site survey of North Korean railways on Friday.
They're comprised of 28 inspectors and 7 train cars, with a locomotive and six cars carrying oil and electricity, as well as living facilities for the researchers who will basically use the trains as shelter.
At the North's Panmun station, South Korean train cars were linked up to a North Korean locomotive and cars.
For the next two-and-a-half weeks., the trains will move along the western Gyeongui Line first and then the eastern Donghae Line for testing purposes.
This will be the first time in over 10 years that the two Koreas have inspected the Gyeongui Line and the first time in history they've surveyed the Donghae Line.
A ceremony was held on Friday morning at South Korea's northernmost Dorasan train station to wish farewell and good luck to the researchers and train cars.
South Korea's transport and unification ministers expressed hope that the on-site survey will be a stepping stone to ultimately connect its railways with the North.
"Today's ceremony will be a signal of the two Koreas' co-prosperity through a railway connection, and provide momentum to expand the Korean Peninsula's economic reach to the Eurasian continent."
"The government will prepare steadily to hold the groundbreaking ceremony within this year as the leaders of South and North have agreed and closely coordinate with related countries so that the railway connection project can go ahead with support from the international community."
Seoul is still confident that the two Koreas can hold the groundbreaking ceremony before the end of this year despite many delays.
But it's widely seen that the ceremony will only be a symbolic move with Seoul saying actual construction work will proceed in accordance with progress in North Korea's denuclearization.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.