For several centuries, the Silk Road, a collection of trading routes across the great expanse of Eurasia, not only enabled the trading of goods and commodities between Asia and Europe, but also facilitated the exchange of ideas, cultures, and religions.
With the introduction of the Iron Silk Road, a long-term infrastructure project that will eventually link the Asian and European continents via rail, one can only expect more positive effects on region-to-region exchanges — this is a view also recognised by ASEM leaders during the fourth ASEM meeting in 2002. Acting on this sentiment, ASEM leaders endorsed a proposal sponsored by Korea and Finland for an ASEM Symposium On The Iron Silk Road, held in conjunction with its 2003 meeting.
The two-day symposium was attended by experts and officials from 15 ASEM countries, as well as representatives from countries that will host sections of the Iron Silk Road, including North Korea, Poland, Russia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, and the Czech Republic. Relevant international organisations such as UNESCAP, the Organisation for Cooperation of Railways, and the International Union of Railways were also represented. Apart from discussing the technical aspects of constructing the Iron Silk Road, experts also examined the potential social and economic impact of the project.