Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Fear spreads across border from North Korea

I'm so close I feel I could almost reach out and touch it. In the distance I see smoke stacks from shut down factories, grey stark buildings, and the odd old truck. Set against an austere, cold ice blue sky and bare trees, the few people visible can be seen walking slowly, speaking in small groups.

This is my glimpse of the 'hermit kingdom', the strange, secretive, forbidding North Korea. We've come to Dandong, a Chinese border town home to North Korean officials, workers and some terrified defectors.

Dandong is every inch a bustling, booming small city on the move, but it is almost as much Korean as Chinese. Even street signs and billboards are in Korean characters.

I have walked the pedestrian 'friendship bridge' out to the middle of the Yalu River. This stretch of water, maybe a kilometer -- less than a mile -- wide, is what separates China from its close ally. Suddenly the bridge stops; pylons mark the remaining distance.

Another two-minute walk and I'd be not just in another country but a different world. This is a world now in official mourning for the death of Kim Jong Il. more