[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Sunday, May 18, 2008

[Crossing the Yalu]
1. Strangely, I felt a certain sadness leaving North Korea. Maybe it was because of the warmth with which we were treated. Maybe it was because of the living conditions of the people we were leaving behind us.

2. Crossing the old bridge built by the Japanese to Dandong in Liaoning Province, we felt as if we had emerged from a time warp. As I was on an official visit to China, my delegation was received with great hospitality, even a touch of ceremony, by the Dandong City Government. I was touched to find that a police honour guard had been mounted.

3. In sharp contrast to North Korea, Dandong City was bustling. It doubled its GDP in the last 5 years and expects to double it again in the next 3. The annual growth rate is some 16%. All along the bank of the Yalu, new condos are sprouting up. A new district is being built downriver. Singapore's Koh Brothers is investing in a major commercial/residential project.

4. In the evening, as we were walking along the bank of the river, one side was bright and abuzz. The other was in pitch blackness with a faint glow where a statue of Kim Il Sung was lit up all night. Satellite pictures of the Korean Peninsula at night show bright lights in South Korea and China sandwiching an energy-short North Korea in darkness.

5. Dandong has a strategic location which will serve it well once the political situation in the Korean Peninsula improves. When the Japanese annexed Korea and Manchuria in the early 20th century, they had big plans for Dandong. But the people and government of Dandong are not waiting. Dandong is part of the plan in Liaoning Province to link 5 coastal cities together. Road and rail links are getting much better. Although I did not have time to visit them, there are scenic sights rivalling Sichuan's Jiuzaigou. The city is also well-known for its strawberries and chestnuts. The seafood is excellent.

6. Near the city is Hushan, Tiger Mountain, where the Great Wall reaches its easternmost point at the Yalu River. That stretch has now been restored and is becoming an important tourism site. We took photographs where, when the tide was low, one could cross into North Korea with a single step.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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