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Dorasan: Last South Korean Railway Station
First station to North Korea
Arati Singh (arati)     Print Article 
Published 2007-08-19 11:06 (KST)   
Guards in front of tracks to Pyongyang.
©2007 Arati SIngh
Boundary station, otherwise known as the railway station at Dorasan, is just 700 meters from the southern boundary of the Demilitarized Zone, a 4-kilometer no-man's land that separates South from North Korea like a cummerbund from the Yellow Sea to the Sea of Japan. Some 50 kilometers north of the South Korean capital of Seoul Dorasan, it is popularly known as the last South Korean station. In the near future, it may be known as the first gateway station to North Korea.

Dorasan lies on the Gyeongui Railway Line, one of the oldest lines in Korea, which once connected Seoul to Pyongyang and Sinuiju, which are now in North Korea. Following the war between two Koreas (1950-53) Gyeongui Railway Line was cut -- southern trains terminated at Munsan (north of Seoul) and northern trains at Kaesong, now also in North Korea.

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However, the South-North Declaration made by the two Koreas on June 15, 2000, led to an effort to extend the Gyeongui Line to reconnect provinces in the South and North. Southern passenger service was extended to Dorasan, and tracks were built across the DMZ itself. In October 2004, the tracks were extended further from Dorasan to Kaesong in North Korea. On May 17, 2007, the first train since the Korean War, carrying North and South Korean delegations, traveled from Munsan in the South to Kaesong in the North. Unfortunately, events like this are rare. South Korean trains do not usually cross from Dorasan to Kaesong. Dorasan still is the last destination.

Quiet looking green North Korean mountains start where Dorasan ends. The station and the mountains are separated by iron-wire fences and four kilometers of no-man's land. But many Koreans hope that in the future, the iron fences will be removed and people will begin to settle in the no-man's land. The tracks in Dorasan will then take the form of an iron silk road, connecting Pyongyang, Shineuija and rest of the Asian Continent and Europe.

A portrait of a train at Dorasan passing through the DMZ toward Pyongyang.
©2007 Arati Singh
Every year, thousands of domestic and foreign tourists tour this site. U.S. President George W. Bush visited it on Feb. 20, 2002. Physically, Dorasan is no different from any other South Korean railway station. In fact, it is smaller and less crowded. But the symbolic importance that Dorasan holds has made it special and worth visiting. Dorasan represents hope for millions of South Koreans who believe in the unification of South and North Korea.

There is a section of tracks whose destination is written as Pyongyang. The glass doors to these tracks are closed and the waiting room inside looks painfully quiet and subdued. No one gets off from the train and no one is there to take the train to Pyongyang. Dorasan is ready to be extended to the North. Unfortunately, the iron fences and the no-man's land still stand, keeping it from happening.

Dorasan Station.
©2007 Arati Singh
Dorasan is a symbol of the pain and suffering normal people go through when a country faces the tragedy of partition. Dorasan also tells a silent story -- of how excessive foreign interference and the hunger for power of political leaders can rip apart nations and people creating an everlasting deep wound that that may never be healed again. Dorasan is also a lesson for those foreigners who have supported or at least advocated for regionalism as a solution to political crises.

As the number of South Koreans supporting unification diminishes, it is idealistic to envisage the two Koreas becoming one in the immediate future, but the possibility of a reconnection of at Dorasan cannot be ruled out. Dorasan provides a platform for the two Koreas to share a united history once again somewhere in the future.
©2007 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Arati Singh

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