Bridge Over Troubled Water

Dandong, a bustling provincial capital in Northeast China, is one of North Korea’s few lifelines to the rest of the world. Trains and trucks regularly drive across the new Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, delivering supplies to the North Korean side. 

The U.S. military bombed the original bridge in 1950. The Chinese side, which is fully intact, is a tourist destination; two kuai to study North Korea with a telescope.

Across the Yalu river lies the North Korean port city of Sinuiju; only a few of its industrial buildings can be seen from the riverfront, with motorbikes and trucks driving along the shore every now and then. Along the river, adjacent to Dandong’s gleaming boardwalk, are a number of North Korean-flag bearing cargo ships docked closely together. There are no other North Korean boats up or downstream and all the cargo ships are grounded.

Unlike the nighttime neon glow of restaurants and shops along Dandong’s waterfront skyline, the only visible light on the North Korean side besides a customs building comes from spotlights that light up a statue of Kim Il-Sung in the town square. Beyond that, it’s an eerily empty sky above half of the river.

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