SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's unification minister said Friday that Seoul and Pyongyang may be able to start their field study on railways as early as this month to modernize and eventually connect them across their border.

During a parliamentary session, Cho Myoung-gyon voiced optimism for Seoul's efforts to get U.N. sanctions exemptions for the railway study that has been put on hold since the U.N. Command (UNC) blocked a passage of materials needed for it in the North in August, citing procedural problems.

"Now, what is left is an issue of coordinating with the North over the timeline (for the field study)," Cho said during the session of the National Assembly's special panel on inter-Korean economic cooperation.

The minister added that the U.S. government basically does not oppose such inter-Korean cooperation.

The UNC's initial response to the preparatory work for the railway study was seen as reflecting Washington's discomfort over the fast pace of cross-border cooperation when Pyongyang has yet to take any significant steps towards denuclearization.

Asked about Seoul's request to get sanctions exemptions for inter-Korean cooperative projects, Cho said that he anticipates that things will move "in a positive direction" with an answer to the request due to come "sooner or later."

The project linking the rail systems of the Koreas along their western and eastern regions is a key inter-Korean cooperation endeavor that their leaders agreed on in April in a bid to realize balanced economic development and co-prosperity on the peninsula.

Source: Yonhap News Agency