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The Korean National Railroad’s new high-speed KTX train, shown here, entered service last April. South Korean officials plan in coming years to bring KTX service to Pyongtaek, a region in central South Korea slated to become a main hub for U.S. forces in the country.
The Korean National Railroad’s new high-speed KTX train, shown here, entered service last April. South Korean officials plan in coming years to bring KTX service to Pyongtaek, a region in central South Korea slated to become a main hub for U.S. forces in the country. (Courtesy of Korean National Railroad)

PYONGTAEK, South Korea — Passenger service on South Korea’s new high-speed Korea Train Express will be extended to Pyongtaek, the region that eventually will have the largest concentration of U.S. troops on the peninsula, South Korean transportation officials said Wednesday.

The KTX entered service with the Korean National Railroad, or Korail, last April.

With its usual commercial speed of 300 kilometers per hour (186.45 miles per hour), the KTX gets from Seoul to Pusan in 2 hours, 40 minutes, a trip that takes the railroad’s next-fastest train, the Saemaul-ho, more than four hours, said Yin Tae-myoung, team leader with Korail’s international railroad division in Taejon.

The project — expected to take six to eight years — will go forward once the U.S. military and South Korean government finalize arrangements for moving U.S. forces out of Seoul and into the Pyongtaek region, said Han Dong-min, an official of South Korea’s Ministry of Construction and Transportation. Han is deputy director of the High Speed Rail Policy Division.

Korail currently serves Pyongtaek with two of its passenger lines — the Saemaul-ho, known as the “Blue Line,” and Mugunghwa-ho, or “Orange Line.” Both stop at Pyongtaek Station in the city’s central “downtown” commercial district. Korail would continue service at that station even after building a separate KTX station in the area, Han said.

The ministry will “positively” build the station “if the American military … is relocated to Pyongtaek,” Han told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday. “We need to support the Pyongtaek region in regard to relocation of the U.S. military base to Pyongtaek.”

The way will be cleared for the Yongsan-Pyongtaek relocation once South Korea adopts a budget that earmarks funding for the move.

The U.S. military plans to consolidate its forces, currently stationed at points around the peninsula, into two regional hubs: one in the Pyongtaek region, the other in the Taegu-Pusan area in southeastern Korea. The Pyongtaek area includes two U.S. military installations, Camp Humphreys and Osan Air Base.

South Korean officials first must select a site for a new KTX station somewhere in Pyongtaek, said Han.

Transportation officials would consult Kyonggi Province in choosing the site, and in planning and constructing the station, Han said.

Kyonggi Province officials asked for a KTX station in Pyongtaek some years ago, when the KTX was in development, Han said.

But officials renewed their requests last year, pointing to the U.S. military’s stated plans to move its troops and units from Seoul to Pyongtaek, Han said. Earlier this year, their request gained the backing of a Pyongtaek representative in the Korean National Assembly.

Reports published in the South Korean press put the estimated project cost at around $300 million. But Han said the ministry had no estimates yet available for public release.

Korail currently operates two KTX lines, the Kyongbu high- speed line between Seoul and Pusan and the Honam high-speed line between Seoul and Kwangju.

It was too soon to say how long the KTX might take to travel between Seoul Station and an eventual station in Pyongtaek, Korail team leader Yin said.

But, he said, the KTX makes the trip between Seoul and Chonan, a city somewhat south of Pyongtaek, in 39 minutes, with tickets costing 11,400 won (about $11) in second class and 16,000 won (about $15) in first class.

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