High Speed Rail to (near) North Korea

 Train leaving Yanji towards Tumen

Train leaving Yanji towards Tumen

On the far eastern stretches of the Sino-Korean border, high speed rail travel is booming, with the Changchun to Hunchun line seeing over 1 million passengers in its first month of operation. That line links Changchun with Hunchun, on the Sino-Russo-Korean border, passing through Yanji and Tumen in the Yanbian Autonomous Korean Prefecture. Tumen, incidentally, hasn't even had traffic lights for a decade; Hunchun is only a city of 200,000 - a quiet hamlet by Chinese standards. At less than 200 RMB for the longest stretch, ticket prices are low enough that bus companies have already been struggling to attract customers.

Meanwhile, despite a few erroneous headlines claiming China was building high speed rail to North Korea less than two months ago, China did link up Shenyang and Dandong on a high speed line. Dandong sits across from Sinuiju and is the DPRK's main land-trade route. This line cuts the travel time from Shenyang to the border-city from 3.5 hours to about one hour.

CE staff got to see the trains in operation along the Yanji-Hunchun stretch. As with Dandong, this incredible infrastructural achievement is in several parts within a few hundred meters of the DPRK. With Russia interested in refurbishing North Korean rail and China increasingly moving towards exporting transportation infrastructure, one imagines just a small breakthrough on the nuclear stalemate would be enough for serious rail-upgrading projects to be considered in the DPRK. One wonders what Seoul makes of this Chinese and Russian positioning. Certainly, a couple major South Korean companies are keeping tabs, at least.

 Look left, high speed rail

Look left, high speed rail

 Look right, the DPRK (just beyond the trees)

Look right, the DPRK (just beyond the trees)