North and South Korea sent trains across the four-mile Demilitarized Zone on Thursday for the first time since a 1953 ceasefire ended fighting in the Korean War.
Yellow smoke from a celebratory fireworks hung in the air at the border and white balloons were released as a five-car South Korean train rolled north on a restored track on the west side of the peninsula. On the eastern side, meanwhile, a North Korean train crossed into the South, where it was greeted with marching bands and children bearing flowers.
The test run on reconnected tracks was the latest in a series of symbolic reconciliations between the two hostile governments, ever since an unprecedented summit between their leaders in 2000. But a number of anti-North Korea protesters clashed with police in the south just before the trains crossed. One protester, Nam Jang-Ho, objected to the show of détente with the Communist regime in Pyongyang, saying, "We haven't met our parents and brothers in the North over 30 or 40 years It just gives everything to the North Korean government without caring about South Koreans missing their family members who were kidnapped by the North."
If rail traffic became routine between the North and South, ordinary people could theoretically see old relatives and friends again. But North Korea's secretive government -- like East Germany's before 1989 -- has been reluctant to allow any outside influence or contact.
The two Koreas are still technically at war. But they resumed steps toward reconciliation after North Korea agreed last February to take the first steps toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program.