Dandong – A peep into North Korea

Discussion in 'Indo Pacific & East Asia' started by kseeker, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. kseeker

    kseeker Retired

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    Dandong – A peep into North Korea - The Times of India

    Jeremy Koh,Mumbai Mirror | Nov 23, 2013, 12.00 AM IST

    North Korea remains as enigmatic as ever, but the view from Dandong, separated by the Yalu river offers a revealing look at the hermit kingdom

    Keep your cameras away when you see aNorth Korean soldier!" "Do not take any pictures of military installations!" Those were the orders barked by my otherwise affable guide as we neared North Korean waters near Dandong in China's North-eastern Liaoning Province. An entire tourism industry had sprung up due to Dandong's proximity to the North Korean city of Sinuiju. The two cities are separated only by the Yalu River. Along some stretches, the distance apart is as little as five metres.

    While it's not impossible to enter North Korea as a tourist (travel agencies offer tours to North Korea and they will settle your visas for you), the cost is often prohibitively high, and tourists are not allowed to venture about without a chaperone. And given all the stories about North Korea's nuclear ambitions and its pariah status, it's no wonder the country is not packing in the crowds.

    The other side

    However, interest in the North has always been high, more so after the recent death of Kim Jong-il. So along the Dandong riverfront, enterprising vendors have set up shop offering North Korean memorabilia, from North Korean banknotes to badges bearing the images of the Kim Jong-il and his father, the founder of North Korea. And for just RMB 10 (S$2), you can peer into a pair of binoculars and see what the other side looks like.

    But little did I expect that I would be a stone's throw, or in my case, a pack of cigarettes' throw away from North Korea when I took up an offer by a travel agent along the riverfront to have a closer look at the hermit kingdom. For RMB 100 (S$20), the agent had promised a boat ride along the river that separates the two countries.

    The embarkation point was about 20 minutes north of downtown Dandong, along a seemingly unguarded part of the border. For the first ten minutes or so, the boat cruised down the length of the river before it abruptly turned east and headed towards the North Korean shore - a move that should perhaps be considered alarming.

    But when I saw how the eyes of the two middle-aged South Korean tourists in my group were flashing with excitement, I figured I was going down a well-trodden tourist route.

    The North Korean side is perhaps as expected, given the reports of food and power shortages that have been coming out of the reclusive state. There are only a couple of ramshackle peasant huts and a few concrete bunkers. This lies in stark contrast to the Chinese side which contains several shiny high-rise buildings, countless vehicles and is generally bustling with life.

    The smoke screen

    But even though Sinuiju, as glimpsed from the river, is generally devoid of the human activity, what it does have are soldiers. And two beckoned to us as we got closer. A wave of apprehension arose within me. But it turned out that they merely wanted cigarettes, which my guide threw to the ground from the boat. Other North Korean soldiers continued squatting on the ground, staring blankly.

    Back on the Chinese side, my guide said that this sort of black-market trade is extremely common along the border. In return for items like cigarettes, rice and liquor, the guide is granted safe passage to ferry sightseeing passengers right onto the doorstep of North Korea. However, according to news reports, a much more lucrative trade in drugs as well as expertly forged US dollars also takes place along this border.

    Anti-climatic Dandong

    Being the largest Chinese city along the North Korean border, Dandong is said to be teeming with spies and undercover agents searching for defectors. But while all these activities might appeal to your inner 007, the reality is more mundane. It's just a regular third-tier Chinese city albeit with lots of North Korean influences which you can't escape from.

    The main attractions all revolve around North Korea and the Korean War. So there are sights like the Broken Bridge, which was bombed by the Americans during the Korean War to frustrate Chinese support for North Korea, and the Museum Commemorating the War to Resist American Aggression and Aid Korea (what a name!). There's also a North Korean restaurant run by actual North Koreans and there's even a stretch of the Great Wall that runs along the Chinese-North Korean border. But these are side attractions to the main draw, which is the inscrutable country to the east. Watching the sun set and with the innumerable neon lights of Dandong lighting up the streets, I watched as North Korea descended into darkness. The only lights came from the trucks that were exiting North Korea via the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge. I recalled the stories I've read of starvation, gulags, power shortages and nuclear bombs. But if even Uncle Sam can't figure out North Korea, how could I? So I turned my back on North Korea and re-embraced the capitalist world of modern China.

    Getting there

    FLY from Beijing to Dandong in less than two hours. There are two trains a day from Beijing - one takes 14 hours, and the other over 21. The 14-hour K27 train departs at 5.30pm, and arrives in Dandong at 7.15 am the next day.

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dandong
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2013
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  3. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    I happened to hv an interesting chat on NK with an Nepali who'd mistaken me as Korean. I said "look, NK is rich in resources, incl. mineral ores etc. but has only 20+mil pop. like Nepal, a similar size of a Chinese province. NK will boost once they're free of security concerns and open up".

    Sent from my 5910 using Tapatalk 2
     
  4. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    The face of communism is the same everywhere.
     
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  5. ice berg

    ice berg Senior Member Senior Member

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    The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition): Daily News from Korea - China Stages Drills Near Korean Peninsula
    China Stages Drills Near Korean Peninsula
    The Chinese military has staged massive military exercises around the Korean Peninsula after it declared a new air defense identification zone late last month that partly overlaps with South Korea's and Japan's.

    The exercises also came amid reports of the ouster of North Korean eminence grise Jang Song-taek.

    The Shenyang Military Region, one of seven military regions in the Chinese People's Liberation Army that would be mobilized in an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, last Wednesday began cold-weather exercises in and around Mt. Baekdu, which marks the border with North Korea, the official Chinese military paper said Saturday.

    It said some 3,000 soldiers from the Shenyang Military Region moved to a training ground near Mt. Baekdu, and are practicing to improve their operational capabilities in cold weather and unfamiliar terrain.

    "Unlike in previous drills, the troops did not conduct any on-site survey or adaptation training for the ongoing exercises," the daily added. "They will change areas of training continuously to improve their skills in real combat."
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    At the same time, the Chinese Navy is carrying out live fire drills in Bohai Bay and the West Sea across the Korean Peninsula, the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong reported Saturday.

    The drills, which will continue until Friday, are the first in the northern seas since China declared the new air defense zone in the East China Sea. It waged similar drills in the area on Nov. 15-22, right before declaring the zone, the Hong Kong daily said.

    Meanwhile, the Jinan Military Region mobilized some 20,000 troops from the Army, Navy, Air Force and missile units for drills on the Shandong Peninsula close to South Korea and Japan, Hong Kong's Oriental Daily News reported Sunday.

    "The troops conducted night live fire exercises mobilizing a military reconnaissance satellite," the daily said without specifying a date.
     
  6. ice berg

    ice berg Senior Member Senior Member

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    North Korea Leadership Watch | Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership
    DPRK State Media Broadcasts Images of Jang Dismissal

    DPRK state media aired a news item and images of an expanded meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Political Bureau on 9 December at which Jang Song Taek (Chang So’ng-t’aek), former Vice Chairman of the DPRK National Defense Commission and Director of the KWP Administration Department was accused of anti-party, counterrevolutionary factional acts,” formally removed from office and expelled from the KWP. Korean Central Television [KCTV] broadcasted an 11 minute report that detailed the Political Bureau meeting’s proceedings, depicted DPRK Premier Pak Pong Ju and two other senior officials lambasting Jang and pledging loyalty to Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) and showed Jang being physically escorted from the meeting by Ministry of People’s Security officers. Despite speculation that Jang was arrested at the meeting, the footage only shows that he was escorted out of the meeting’s venue.

    Jang Song Taek’s wife, Kim Kyong Hui (Kim Kyo’ng-hu’i), who is a member of the KWP Political Bureau and a KWP Secretary was neither reported nor observed to be in attendance.
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  7. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    wow Jang is the in-law of Kim Jong Il the no.2 in NK! surprising !

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  8. amoy

    amoy Senior Member Senior Member

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    China to open high speed rail link to North Korean border in 2015 | Reuters

    (Reuters) - China will open a high-speed rail line to the North Korean border next year, state media said on Thursday, in a sign that China remains committed to boosting trade and economic ties with the isolated, nuclear-armed state.

    The line, under construction since 2010, will run 207 km (127 miles) from Shenyang to the border city of Dandong, which faces North Korea across the Yalu River, and will shorten the train journey from 3 1/2 hours to one hour, the official Xinhua news agency said.

    As much as 80 percent of trade between China and North Korea passes through Dandong, which is near one of North Korea's special economic zones on Hwanggumpyong island.

    China has encouraged the development of three special economic zones in North Korea, hoping to tap low labor costs and encourage the North to see the benefits of economic reform, even while publicly rebuking it over its nuclear weapons program.

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    the bridges linking Dandong and Sinuiju - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia the 2nd largest city of N.Korea
     

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