Transportation Chaos in N.K… “1 Train Operating Every 10 Days”

[imText1]A dire source from North Korea informed on the 5th that the main railway Pyong-ra line (Pyongyang-Rajin) connecting east North Korea with the inland was suspended leaving people in extreme transportation chaos.

In a phone conversation with a reporter, Kim Min Chul (pseudonym, 47) of Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung province said “It took me more than 1 month to travel from Pyongsung, Pyongan province to Hoiryeong, North Hamkyung province.” Kim who went to Pyongsung and Suncheon in Pyongan province at the end of last July for trade revealed “I returned barely alive and having spent all my money on the road.”

Kim said “The passenger train that connects Pyongan and Chongjin, North Hamkyung province only operates once every 10 days and so the majority of people ride trucks or buses.”

The Shinuiju-Chongjin train service that departs Chongjin, North Hamkyung province for Shinuiju can only operate unto Kowon, North Hamkyung province as restorations for the railroad at Yangduk is not yet complete. The train that arrives at Kowon is then returned back to Chongjin, however this seems to take 10 days.

According to Kim, this past April an accident occurred on the railroad between Yangduk, South Pyongan province and Kowon, North Hamkyung province. A train was overturned and before any restorations could be made, the flood that coincided blocked the tunnel and the rail roadbed was washed away. In some parts of the region, 50m of the rail is warped and in mid-air.

On April 23rd 2006, a 13 carriage train collided with a freight train between the regions of Yangduk-Kowon on its way from Pyongyang to Pyonggang, Gangwon province. It was a large-scale accident where 270 soldiers and 400 civilians were concealed on the train. Kim supposes that at the time, North Korean authorities feared the accident would become public, therefore ceased railway operations for a period of time.

Kim said “At present, traveling long distances is particularly inconvenient as trains are not operating properly. As a result the main services between Yangduk, Pyongyang province, and the east with the inland have become virtually nonexistent.”

Train ticket cost a minimum of 5,000won ($1.67)

As trains are suspended ‘paying to car-pool’ is increasing, as costs rise dramatically.

One North Korean source said “It is becoming a custom that you automatically show a 5,000won($1.67) the moment you board a car. In the case you are carrying luggage, each baggage costs an additional 5,000won.” The cost of traveling from Wonsan, Gangwon province to Kowon, South Hamkyung province is 5,000won, from Wonsan to Pyongyang 20,000won($6.67) and from Wonsan to Hamheung, North Hamkyung province 10,000won($3.33).

The source said “People using trains ride cars between Yangduk to Wonsan and then board trains like ‘a relay race’ only barely returning home.”

The source relayed, unfortunate people travel by walking for over 10 days from Yangduk to Sudonggu, North Hamkyung province through the Bukdaeryeong mountain paths renown for it’s rugged terrain. These people climb over mountains eating stolen potatoes and corn in nearby fields, which has led to a rise in complaints by the people.

Having a bad influence throughout the economy … Skyrocketing prices

As the belt between the east and inland is disconnected, adverse affects are impacting throughout North Korea’s economy and the lives of the people. Even North Hamkyung province which encountered little flood damages is facing restraints as goods cannot be delivered. The people in the majority live off trade are in a situation where they cannot even embezzle goods from each other as trains have been suspended.

The railroad is a critical means of transportation to the point it is called the ‘Economy’s Artery.’ As an important railroad such as this has been suspended, the whole economy has recoiled and signs of shortage in food prevalent.

Accordingly prices at Jangmadang are escalating. In a phone conversation with Kim Sun Mi(pseudonym, 35) of Onsung district, North Korea, confirmed this fact. Kim said “As roads and railways throughout the country are becoming immobilized, prices are skyrocketing.”

Kim said “The cost of rice has risen at Jangmadang at 1,300won ($0.43) per kilo, corn is 300won ($0.1), corn oil is 2,800won ($0.93) a bottle, bean oil is 3,200won ($1.07) and pork 3,300won ($1.1).”

Kim said “At present, Kotjebi (street children) are becoming more prevalent in the districts of Chongjin, North Hamkyung and Dancheon, South Hamkyung province. With an obscure thought that ‘You can only live if you go to the borders’ they are drawing to the districts near China and the border areas such as Hoiryeong, Musan and Onsung.”

In the mid-90’s, as the country faced difficulties due to lack of power and old equipment, trains operated once every 10~15 days. In those days, when a train stopped briefly, people would detach windows and chairs putting them to fire.

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