Pyongyang Railway Station is the central railway hub of North Korea and the primary entry and departure point to the country for those arriving by train. 5 hours or so after leaving from Dandong and journeying onwards through the North Korean countryside, you will eventually arrive at Pyongyang Railway Station via evening. The station has an open expanse with broad marble platforms. When you get off, your guides are usually waiting for you in front of the train! It’s very easy to navigate! But is there more to it? Let’s find out!
Pyongyang Railway Station has a curious history. The original building was in fact constructed in the 1920s by the Japanese, who occupied Korea at the time. As a colonizing force eager to exploit Korea’s strategic location with the view to expanding into China, the Empire of Japan built railways spanning across the peninsula, inaugurating what is known as the Gyeonggui Line stretching all the way from Seoul to Sinuiju in the north, stopping via Pyongyang on the way. The result was the construction of the original Pyongyang station in Imperial Japanese architecture, which would have made it identical to what is known as Seoul Station in the South. However, the original Pyongyang Railway Station did not last out the Korean war. It was destroyed by bombing and subsequently rebuilt in a socialist style in the 1950s, thus becoming the station which is used today.
The present Pyongyang station obviously has no services to South Korea, but the line that connects to it continues to exist running via Kaesong. The obviously continues to maintain routes heading towards both China and Russia, as well as to a number of other locations in the DPRK including Nampo, Chongjin, Wonsan, Hamhung and Rason. To this end, the station possesses five platforms. As you can imagine, it doesn’t look particularly modern. It possesses several old fashioned waiting rooms and some small snack shops. One may note the absence of electronic schedule boards typically seen in stations throughout the world. Outside, music is commonly blasted from a series of speakers. Potraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong il stand outside next to the station clock.
For people on tour in North Korea, the experience of the station consists of little more than a straightforwards “in and out” experience. The first platform where the train to China departs is straight ahead from the main entrance and not a challenge to find. One may note the presence of North Koreans travelling abroad here, as well as the warm embrace of locals meeting their families as they return home to the DPRK.