Tongil Street – Kaesong

Turning your back on the Great Leader is hard to do, but do it you must in this case.

The view down Tongil (Reunification) Street is the most photographed in Kaesong and one of the best recognised vistas in North Korea.

Everyone tries to get a picture of this four-lane highway, which cuts through the centre of Kaesong, with no vehicles on it and if they are lucky the picture will include a traffic policeman directing this non-existent traffic – a classic image of North Korea in many people’s minds, and reasonably so.

Alas, there are three vehicles in my main photo and no one seems to be directing them, somewhat extraordinary in a country that takes its traffic control so seriously.

What can be seen from my photos is that, in Kaesong, the people are the traffic in the city.

Presumably the explanation that our guide gave me for the four-lane, in each direction, and almost equally car-less Reunification Highway between Pyongyang and Kaesong also applies here. That is, it will be needed when the country is reunited, soon.

Putting this optimism aside, apart from the ‘need’ to have a grand avenue lead up to the stature of Kim Il-sung (from which I took the photographs) I see no transport logic for it. It comes to an end at the foot of Songak Mountain, in the distance, where the Reunification Highway connects with it. If the slopes at either end were not as steep as they are I would have suggested it was an airstrip in the centre of town. Indeed, it might actually be capable of being used as one in the event of an outbreak of hostilities in the near-by Demilitarised Zone.

What you can’t appreciate from the photographs is the thunderous loudspeaker broadcast which we had to endure for about ten minutes, breaking the more regular silence of the city. Our guide assured us that it was the evening news being broadcast for the benefit of the people. A member of another tour group, who could speak Korean, told us that the people were being reminded that there were foreign visitors in town (us!) and they needed to be on their best behaviour. I can’t vouch either story.

This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my visit to Kaesong, North Korea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Kwandok Pavilion – or to start this loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – North Korea’s win from the Korean War.

4 thoughts on “Tongil Street

  1. An interesting insight into N Korea – both the traffic-free highway and the loudspeaker broadcast (especially if that other tourist was right in his translation)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am tempted to think that he was not. While South Koreans are banned from visiting the North the North would not be foolish enough to think that no visitors spoke Korean. The visitor in question was a South Korean with dual nationality. This may have ‘tainted’ his hearing and he was generally quite critical. While in another group we bumped into him a few times. I really don’t know.


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