Usually, a broken bridge is considered either an eyesore, or something that is not altogether that useful, but the broken bridge on the Yalu River, separating Dandong from Sinuiju is not only quite an interesting historical relic but also quite the tourist attraction!
So, what is the story of one of the world’s most famous broken bridges? Let me explain.
The original bridge was built in 1911 when the area was under the colonial rule of the Empire of Japan and connected Korea to the Eurasian rail network.
By doing this, Busan in what is now the Republic of Korea became connected all the way to Calais in France!
It was originally built as a swing bridge that could be rotated to assist ships passing through the Yalu.
Between 1937 and 1943 when Dandong formed part of the puppet state of Manchukuo a new (bigger) bridge was built slightly further upstream now known as the Sino-Korean friendship bridge. You will recognize this bridge if you have ever been to North Korea by train, as this is the bridge you use!
Alas having a bigger and better bridge built a few meters upstream was to be the least of the worries for this bridge. In late 1950 when Chinese “volunteers” entered the Korean War both bridges were bombed heavily – notably from the Korean side (so as not to be a direct attack on communist China). Hence why there is still half a bridge.
This means that when you take a train into North Korea from Dandong you can see the exact point you enter North Korean waters (when the broken bridge stops on the Chinese side).
Not much historical happened for a while on the bridge until 1988 when it was declared a heritage site, and then 1993 when the local government dropped million Yuan into turning it into a tourist attraction.
Nowadays it will cost you about $7 to enter and walk along the bridge, giving many tourist their closest view into North Korea.
And the big question, is it worth visiting the broken bridge in Dandong? We personally love Dandong so much as we live there (even if it is the most dangerous city in China), and the broken bridge is nowhere near as good as actually, well you will know when visiting North Korea, but hey, it’s a decent afternoon.
Check out our Ultra-Budget Tours that go straight from Dandong, or one of our day trips (broken bridge optional).