SLOW TRAIN TO PYEONGYANG

Remko Tanis • 26 November 2018

Last month I wrote about my visit to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating North and South Korea. The Dorasan train station fascinated me even more than all the other sites in the DMZ, such as the famous blue United Nations on the actual border.

Doors to tracks for currently non existing trains to North Korea, at Dorasan station in South Korea. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

Dorasan is the northernmost train station in the South Korean railway system. Even though North and South have been divided since 1945, there’s always hope that someday the two Koreas will unify again.

At the actual border, where soldiers from both sides literally stare each other down, that hope seems far fetched.

United States military personnel (front) and South Korean soldiers (behind) at the border between North and South Korea. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis

At the Dorasan station though, which is ten kilometers south of the border truce village of Panmunjom, 56 kilometers north of Seoul, and 205 kilometers south of Pyeongyang, South Korea seems to indicate: “Say the word and we’re ready, sort of, to send passengers off in comfy trains to Pyeongyang, Seoul, Busan, name it. Ready to be a united country again.”

The departure hall is fully equipped, the platforms and signage are ready. Staff just has to remove the yellow crowd control ribbon that now hangs between poles below the sign ‘Tracks To Pyeongyang’.

Over the weekend, the news came in that the UN Security Council has approved a plan by North and South Korea to do a field study to see if they can actually hook up their rail systems again.

Nothing will happen fast. This will be a long, slow train to Pyeongyang. But if anything, the news does improve the prospect for Dorasan Station ever so slightly to one day become an actual functioning train station on the Pyeongyang to Seoul line.

In the meantime, these clocks on a platform at Dorasan will keep counting the time the two Koreas have been separated.

Signs at Dorasan train station in northern South Korea: left stating how long East and West Germany were separated, right digitally continuing to count the duration of the Korean division. In between the signs an original piece of the Berlin Wall. Photo: (C) Remko Tanis