If you’ve ever felt both deeply sad and profoundly hopeful at the same time, then you have some sense of what it feels like to stand inside Dorasan Station, South Korea’s largely symbolic transportation hub just 650 meters from the southern boundary of the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
The sleek, modern train station was completed in 2002, and for a short time, freight trains did travel back and forth between the Kaesong Industrial Complex, on the North Korean side of the border, and Dorasan. This was during the peak of then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy, which sought more cordial relations with the North. But it didn’t take long for tensions between the two nations to flare up once again, effectively shutting down the station and rendering it little more than a curiosity for tourists.
The station connects to a much larger customs and immigration operation, including several warehouses and inspection bays. Today these buildings sit empty and unused.
Inside the terminal, signs point non-existent Pyongyang-bound passengers to board trains that never come. An aspirational route map for a proposed Trans-Asian Railway system looms large across one wall. A souvenir shop in the corner, selling DMZ-themed coffee mugs and locally sourced chocolates, is one of the few hubs of any activity.
In the South, the hope is that one day soon, the two Koreas might begin to trade with each other again. Should that day ever come, Dorasan sits ready and waiting.