We run tours from Dandong to North Korea, we live in Dandong, and we like everything about this beautiful city that borders the North Korean border town of Sinuiju. One of the most popular tourist sites of Dandong is the Dandong Broken Bridge. So what is the story of the broken bridge of Dandong? Like most things related to North Korea and China’s relationship, it is very intriguing.
Dandong Bridge to nowhere? Yalu River Broken Bridge
The Yalu River Broken Bridge (鸭绿江断桥) was a railway bridge linking Korea with China. The bridge was built during Japanese colonial times in 1911 and was a steel bridge 944.2 meters (3,098 feet) long and had 12 arches. The bridge was designed to swing open mid-way to allow larger ships and boats to pass through. Nowadays the Yalu River Bridge stands broken with only half of it remaining. Why?
History of the Dandong Broken Bridge
1909: Construction of the Yalu River Bridge begins
Whilst the Japanese had occupied Korea, they thought it was in their best interest to begin construction of the Yalu River Bridge also known as the Qingcheng Bridge, without permission of the Qing dynasty who were the current government of China.
1911: The bridge opens thus creating the world’s longest railroad network
The Yalu River Bridge opened in October of 1911 and was the first bridge to connect the Korean peninsula to mainland China. The Japanese continued putting pressure on the Chinese government to allow the Japanese to connect their railway from Busan located in the very south of Korea to the Eurasia network giving them access all the way to Calais in France.
1937: the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge is built alongside the Yalu River Bridge
The Sino Korean Friendship bridge opens alongside the Yalu River bridge being the second bridge to connect Dandong and Sinuiju. The bridge was approved by last emperor of China, Pu Yi who was at the time now in charge of Manchukuo – the Chinese puppet state to the Imperialist Japanese. If you travel to North Korea by train, this is the very bridge you cross over.
1950-53: Korean War
During the Great Fatherland Liberation War, War to Resist America and Aid Korea, or simply the Korean War, the US initially “accidentally” bombed the bridge, before going all and bombing the Korean side of the bridge as apart of the bombing campaign. This was done to avoid directly bombing Chinese territory (and potentially World War 3), whilst also ebbing the flow of Chinese Volunteers, such as Mao Anying popping over to fight in the war.
1988: Tourism in Dandong takes off
The 1980s were a significant time of change in China, with the open-door policy of the hero of Shenzhen Deng Xiaoping. Dandong decided to name the broken bridge as a heritage site, and thus open for tourism. Even to this day, along with boat rides along the Yalu river, or the Dandong portion of the Great Wall of China, it remains one of the most popular tourist attractions
Dandong went full-on tourist and invested about $500,000 (USD) on fully refurbishing the bridge, adding statues of Peng Dehuai, who led the People’s Volunteer Army into Korea during the Korean War, as well as a viewing platform and interpretive posts.
It is still a big favourite for tourists, and offers the closest look at North Korea than most visitors get.
Tips for visiting the Broken Bridge
- Tickets onto the Broken Bridge cost is 25 RMB (around $4 USD).
- To reach the bridge from the train station, simply walk to the main road outside the station, turn right and follow the road until you hit the river. You’ll clearly be able to see the Friendship and Broken Bridges.
- If you have a little more time in Dandong, consider a boat tour. This is a fantastic way to see both bridges and get an up-close glimpse of the DPRK from your boat.
- If you’re craving either coffee, there are a few cafes to the left of the bridge