There are only two official, operating bridge crossing points on the 795 km Yalu River border between North Korea and China, one, the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge (formerly the Yalu River Bridge) here in Sinuiju and the other, the Ji’an Yalu River Border Railway Bridge between Ji’an in China and Manp’o in North Korea.
A third bridge, the New Amrok [Yalu] River Bridge, is currently (2014) being constructed 8 kms downstream from the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge. This will connect Langtou new city in China with south Sinuiju.
Prior to the Korean War two bridges, about 60 metres apart, spanned the Yalu River in Sinuiju. Today you can see one and a half bridges.
The first bridge (now half bridge or, as it is referred to, the Broken Bridge) was built between 1909 and 1911 and had a central opening span to allow for the passage of tall ships.
The second, and still operating, Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge was built by the Imperial Japanese Army between 1937 and 1943 towards the end of its occupation of Korea (1945).
During the Korean War (1951-1953) both bridges were repeatedly bombed by US aircraft in an attempt to stop Chinese supplies getting through to North Korea. At the end of the War North Korea decided not to rebuild the older of the two bridges, allegedly so that the US could not later deny having bombed it. Four spans of the old bridge remained, and still remain, on the Chinese side of the river.
These four spans ( the Broken Bridge) are a major tourist attraction on the Chinese side with visitors now able to walk out to a ‘North Korea viewing platform’ at the end of the Broken Bridge. In 2006 the Broken Bridge was declared a key cultural relic by the State Council of China.
The operating Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge now carries all vehicular and rail traffic between Dandong and Sinuiju. Pedestrians are not permitted to use the bridge. Despite lack of progress on the development of two Special Economic Zones in the Sinuiju area the bridge is no longer able to cope with traffic volumes, not helped by the fact that truck weight is restricted to 20 tons for safety reasons, hence the construction of the new bridge downstream which I referred to earlier. The weight limit on trucks makes me wonder how it can cope with the weight of a train crossing it which is how I would have crossed it the previous day had I continued on to Beijing without stopping in Sinuiju. Today, I would be exiting by a bus – which hopefully would weigh less than 20 tons.
This blog entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on my trip to Sinuiju, North Korea. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Tourist Guide Centre: “Dining in Sinuiju”– or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – In North Korea – On the Border with China.