Sinuiju, North P’yongan Province
One of the most overlooked, yet important cities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the northern border city of Sinuiju (신의주시). Located in North Pyongan province, where it serves as the provincial capital. It is situated on the Amnok/Yalu river opposite the Chinese city of Dandong and acts as a border crossing to China across the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge, built in the 30s and 40s to increase the bond between China and Korea. During the Korean War, Kim Il Sung and his government briefly moved to Sinuiju before moving again to Kanggye.
A school in Sinuiju
Sinuiju, as one of the few border crossings with China, is a centre of trade with Beijing, it’s main trading partner, and with the rest of the world via Dandong, China. The Amnok/Yalu river crossing between Dandong and Sinuiju is also the site of the Dandong-Sinuiju pipeline, supplying 90% of the DPRK’s oil, built in 1975 it was exempted from 2017 sanctions on petroleum products due to concerns that it could become blocked if oil flow halted. This prompted criticism that the sanctions were not as effective as advertised and that China was unwilling to take a hard-line against Pyongyang. Sinuiju has long since been a hub of land-based trade. Wonsan and Nampo cities on the east and west coasts respectively act as key sea ports for trade, however along the northern border, few cities have the infrastructure needed to support international trade.
Transport infrastructure is key to accessing the city and allowing it’s imports to be transported across the country. Sinuiju is the site of a railway crossing from China which links to the Korean State Railway network which extends all over the country, passing through all major cities. This allows goods shipped in to the country via the Friendship Bridge or the oil pipeline to be quickly distributed to major industrial centres, especially along the east coast, with cities like Hamhung and Chongjin relying on imports to sustain their heavily industrialised economies. Sinuiju is also the site of an airport, served by Air Koryo, who run passenger and cargo flights to the city from the capital Pyongyang. Again, the airport is a facility only present in a few cities in the DPRK, showing the importance of Sinuiju to the government.
Korean State Railway map showing the direct line from Sinuiju to Pyongyang via Anju
Sinuiju is a major population centre in the DPRK, with around 352,000 people. It also acts as a centre for light industry and boasts 3 large universities mainly focused on this discipline. As a centre of trade into the DPRK it is well connected with the rest of the country and serves as a first point of contact with foreign tourists travelling to Pyongyang by rail from Beijing or Dandong. Despite the lack of coverage, the city is a key centre for the country and, as the government is under sanctions, remains a vital link to China, the outside world and provides the ability to import what little it still can. Perhaps the future will see relaxed sanctions and the return of high volumes of goods travelling to Sinuiju, then onwards into the rest of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Sinuiju train station, from ‘Michael Palin in North Korea’ – 2018
Location of Sinuiju in the DPRK