Ryongchon

  
  - darkometer rating:  6 -
 
A place in North Korea, close to the Chinese border. It was the site of one of the worst train disasters in history – in April 2004. As far as can be speculated (no reliable detailed account was ever given by the authorities) what happened was this: two trains loaded with explosives (dynamite?) and/or fertilizer, collided or got caught up in the overhead electric power cables while being shunted at Ryongchon station. This sparked an explosion so massive that for a moment it was even misinterpreted as a surface nuclear bomb detonation! (Not only abroad – debris flew as far as China – but also within the country itself: apparently some North Koreans feared that this was the beginning of a nuclear attack on the country by the USA – which they had always been told was looming …). There have even been rumours that it was actually an assassination attempt on Kim Jong Il. If so, it missed its target … but that's now irrelevant, since he snuffed it "naturally" in late 2011 anyway.
 
Even though both the assassination attempt and the nuclear explosion theory were very quickly dismissed as a misinterpretation, the statistics still give you an idea of what a disaster it must have been: A primary school near the station was completely levelled, and thousands of homes near the railway were destroyed or badly damaged, at least 154 people were killed, and probably thousands injured.
 
A year later, it had all been cleared up and no one would now think this was a disaster area of those proportions. Only the shiny, new, blue-green houses that have been built at the site give an indication … as they look so much more polished than any other houses along the route.
 
You pass through Ryongchon if you leave or enter the DPRK by overnight train to/from Beijing – which is often the case on longer itineraries (for the other leg they typically use planes).
 
Google maps locator: [39.983,124.459]
  
  
  
  
  
 

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