Week 3: Donghae Bukbu Line

I am studying a railway train line that could potentially link North Korea to South (vice versa) for locals such that we can understand the historical aspect of the rail line, the key industries that the rail line passes through and the importance of the railway line for Gangwon province.


The Donghae East Coast (Bukbu) Railway line lies along the eastern Korean Coast and formerly connects the present-day city of Anbyon in Kangwon Province (North Korea) with Yangyang, Gangwon Province (South Korea).

There has been an increasing concrete effort by both the North and the South to reconnect the two inter-Korean railways-Donghae and Gyeongui lines and roads. On the 17th of May 2007, through cross border train test runs, there was the first train to cross the border between the North and the South in over 50 years. The Panmunjon Declaration signed on the April 2018, is yet another sign that concrete steps are taken to connect both sides of Korea.

At present, the Donghae Bukbu line exists as a mere infrastructure but is not actively used to develop cities that it runs through.

The South envisions an economic belt along the east coast and link it with the Russian Far East. There are also plans to create a “free tourism belt” on the east coast and develop tour programs linking the Mt. Geumgang tourism zone in the North and the Mt. Seorak tourism zone in the South. first focus on the key areas (Goseong and Seorak) and then the extended areas (Inje, Yangyang and Gangneung). The grand scheme of things is to create an international free tourism zone which also serves as a South-North Korea economic cooperation base.

The intention of the diagram is to use simple lines to illustrate the history of the Donghae Bukbu Railway Line, key industries and hubs that lies along the planned stations which would explain why the South wishes to reconnect the two inter-Korean railways.

In Wonsan, North Korea, there exist a thriving agriculture and tourism industry. In addition, Wonsan is the fifth highest population of North Korea. This could explain why the North decided to expand the line from Anbyon to Wonsan after the Japanese colonisation (1910-1945).

On the Southern Gangwon, the original rail line that ran from Jejin to Yang Yang was first expanded to Gangneung during the Japanese colonisation. This was then severed during the Korean War (1950). However, development of key industries and infrastructures like residential zones, tourism along the eastern Korean coast and its mountain scape over the years, led to the planned reconnection of the line from Jejin to Gangneung. The opening of the Airport in Yang Yang (2002) coupled with the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration (2018) only furthered the intention to reconnect Jejin to Gangneung, not only increasing accessibility to the region but also revitalise the economy of Gangwon Province.

As Gangwon remains the only province divided by the border, the reconnection of the railway will not only advance economic exchanges between both sides but also symbolizes the shift in inter-Korean relations from confrontation to peace.

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