Train to Nowhere

Korea was split in two along the 38th parallel almost seventy years ago. Since then, chances of reunification have remained slim to none. Attempts have been made, talks have been had, hands have been shook, but, ultimately, all efforts have failed. Why? For a written overview, click here. For those of you interested in the visual Cliffsnotes, here’s one reason:

The Kim'sAnd another:


Source: Reuters via AEI-ideas.org

North Korea’s antics and moody behavior thwarted reconciliation efforts in 1972, 1990, and again in 1994. But there was movement towards progress in the first few years of the new millennium. Dorasan Station stands as proof. Located in the heart of the DMZ, this $40 million structure is now more living history museum than what it was originally intended to be: a train station that would connect a divided peninsula.

Dorasan StationThe station was a direct result of the South-North Joint Declaration made by the two Koreas in which they agreed to restore the Gyeongui Railroad Line. When the station opened in 2002, U.S. President George W. Bush stood alongside South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, expressing hope and support for a unified Korea. The line was officially connected a year later and freight trains began carting industrial supplies from the South to the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North in 2007.

Dorasan’s tagline “not the last station from the South, but the first station toward the North,” is geographically accurate, but that’s about it. The short-lived cooperation ended in 2008 when North Korea, unhappy with the results of South Korean elections, closed its borders. The daily trains stopped running. Ever since, relations between the two countries have remained stagnant with occasional flare-ups coming from the North.

But Dorasan Station remains, still clean and shiny, its grounds empty, save for curious tourists like ourselves who recently wandered around. We purchased our tickets, pushed our way through the turnstiles, and walked under the “Tracks to Pyeongyang” sign to catch a train to nowhere. Modern rail cars sat tethered together, unmoving on the tracks. Three uniformed South Korean soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder on the end of the platform, facing north, chatting to pass the time.

View NorthWhile they and other soldiers stationed throughout the DMZ wait for their shifts to end, the rest of the world waits on North Korea to follow through on promises of reconciliation and reunification. As someone who lives within a 500 mile radius of the heavily armed country that is prone to volatile behavior, I’m waiting, too.

This entry was published on August 6, 2014 at 1:37 pm. It’s filed under South Korea, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

6 thoughts on “Train to Nowhere

  1. It is still hard to believe that divided countries like this still exist. However, once they would unite again, how would it all be paid? A unification is a huge endeavor, just look at Germany how much money the unification cost back in the 90s and money is still flowing into the east part to modernize everything + the economy suffered a lot till about 10 years ago.
    I hope for a united korea as many others do, but if this ever happens the world will change a lot for the people in the south facing huge amount of payments and for the people in the north suddenly facing an open world without such oppression.

  2. Who knew ? .., unless we have people like you to keep us in the know ! Thanx , sooner or later the message is are they fencing in OR out ?

  3. Interesting. I remember the talks, the agreement, the beginning and the end of shipments to the north, but never knew they constructed a special station for it. Really cool to see some photos of it. What was traded exactly to the north during the year of this line being open and what did the south get in return, I wonder?

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