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December 15th 2005
Published: February 20th 2006
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15th December

“Democratic” “People’s” Republic of Korea, or more commonly known as North Korea. This came as a bit of surprise excursion for us. Once in Dalian we noted how close the border was with Korea. Of course we didn’t set foot in North Korea but journeyed to the Chinese border city of Dandong, right across from the NK city of Sinuiju on the Yalu River. We took a short boat ride onto the river and were a bit nervous as we cruised within fifty feet of the Korean shore. We could see a number of rusted out (fishing?) boats. Mostly we observed empty streets and squares—not much was happening compared to the buzzing and developed Chinese side.

A few Koreans on the boats waved to us but they were no doubt reserved as they were watched by armed guards with antiquated machine guns. Also note in the photo the fake ferris wheel which is never used.

The old border crossing bridge was bombed by the US Air Force in 1950. The Americans were careful to bomb the Korean side of the bridge, leaving the Chinese side intact to this day. We walked on the old bridge to the wreckage at the end, half way across the river.

This was a meaningful excursion for Marcus, whose Grandpa fought in the Korean War with the US Army. He was entrusted with serious responsibilities with tank divisions and had to avoid confrontations with the Chinese forces in a few close calls. He was later awarded the prestigious US Army Draper Award for his service.

We are very grateful to Ma’s Father for arranging for his driver to take us to Dandong and it was nice to visit there with Leilei and her mother and sister.

Additional photos below
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19th April 2006

Risky Travel
I was really interested in this blog. It is good to hear historical facts along with the emotional side of your excursion. I know the frightening feeling of being on North Korean Territory myself. Granted I did go through a tour agency, but it was still rather risky with my being an American. Thanks for sharing.
23rd June 2007

eerrrr... am I a bit late?
I see that this blog hasn't seen action in over a year; nonetheless, I'll give it a go. Just wanted to run an idea by you. Perhaps you already know; forgive me if you do. Might I suggest on your next trip to Dandong, travel about 20 mintues by taxi north to see the "Great Wall". This section of the wall, finished in 1999 AD!, is a replica of the orignal that supposedly stood there hundreds of years ago. The wall itself is crap, however, it occupies land right on the border with North Korea. I've traveled there twice. First being Chirstmas Day 2003. On that day the tiny stream seperating China from North Korea was frozen. We were actually able to walk across into North Korea and snap a picture. Minutes later we were discovered by a North Korean soldier. Too curious to let us be he actually walked across the frozen water to MEET us! I offered him a sip of wather, he took the entire bottle. I offered him a bite to eat, he took the entire granola bar. I offered him a cig, he took the entire pack. Finally I offered him a light, he didn't return the lighter. He became a bit nervous when I unsheathed my camera, and understandably so. However, I snapped a few as he walked away. All-in-all, crazy! My second trip was taken in March of 2006. At that time it was too warm to do any international ice-staking, but I still got to moon a North Korean soldier trying to talk me into crossing. Yeah OK, so I'm American. What can be done?! By no means am I the only out-of-towner to do this in this specific location, nor am I the last, but still I felt a bit 007ish. I strongly recomend you give it a try. Just hop in a Dandong taxi and tell the man "Great Wall".

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