International Friendship Bridge

The Friendship Bridges in Dandong

The Friendship Bridges in Dandong by Derek Harkness. Sourced via Flickr under All rights reserved.

This bridge is a major draw for tourists due to it's unique location and history. The bridge was first build by the Japanese between 1909 and 1911. It spanned the gap across the Yalu River, between China and Korea. At that time, as a result of the First Sino-Japanese war, and the subsequent Russo-Japanese war, Korea had become a protectorate of Japan and the North East of China was largely under Japanese influence. The Japanese had invested heavily in new industries in the area and taken over most of the Russian industries including the rail lines throughout Korea and Manchuria.

The bridge was 944.2 metres long and 11 metres wide. It had 12 span of steel build on stone and brick piers. The fourth span, counting from the Chinese side, was of special construction. It had a horizontal pivot. This allowed the bridge to swing sideways, opening a clear span for tall ship navigation. 

In the 1950's, civil war broke out in Korea and America, along with some other countries under and United Nations banner, became involved on the South Korean side. The general in charge of the of the American operations was the Second World War hero, McArthur. Although he was repeatedly order to keep away from the Chinese border and the avoid giving excuse for the Chinese to enter the war, McArthur fraught right up to, and if the Chinese are to believed, over the boundary. This included several bombing missions to destroy the bridges over the Yalu River, which the North Korean's used to get supplies from China. Going right up to the line, the Americans bombed the Korea side of the bridges, leaving the Chinese sides intact.

Though the bridges were often destroyed, the American action proved futile. The bridges were quickly repaired and little interruption to supplies was caused. Also, during the winter months, the Yalu River freezes over completely. Supplies could simply be driven over the ice. In fact, railway tracks were sometimes laid on the frozen ice and trains ran across between the two countries.

To commemorate the war effort and those that died there, one of the bridges over the Yalu River was left it its war torn state. This is the so called, "Broken Bridge" or officially, the Friendship Bridge. The bridge has been made into a tourist attraction. Visitors can walk out along the bridge to the fourth span, where the bridge abruptly ends. A modern viewing platform allows visitors to view the twisted metal girders and the bomb damage. Beyond this point only the stone piers remain standing in the water.

An additional interest in the bridge is formed due to the secretive nature of North Korea. Few western tourists travel beyond this into North Korea. For most, the Friendship Bridge is as close as you can get to North Korea. From the end of the bridge, you can gaze over the water at the little known country beyond. The opposite bank has a large Korean city. However, the city is set back from the water front and most of the view is of trees. A Ferris wheel, a large hotel, and some port facilities are visible. Occasionally, some North Korean people can be seen playing, swimming or fishing on the river side.

Map showing location of International Friendship Bridge

Above: Location of International Friendship Bridge in Dandong, Liaoning, China