Asian Waters—The Peaceful Yalu River

Yalu_River_Delta,_North_Korea.jpg   “Yalu River Delta, North Korea” Jack Upland Wikipedia (Looking from China towards DPRK). 

                              by David Parmer

If you mentioned the Amnok River, most people, even those familiar with Asia would probably draw a blank. But if you mentioned the Yalu River, you would certainly get a much better response. And yet they are the same: Amnok to Koreans and Yalu to Chinese. The river has played a part in three wars, the first Sino-Japanese war, the Russo-Japanese war, and the Korean war of the 1950s.

In the Korean conflict it was U.S. General Douglas McArthur’s plan to cross the Yalu into China the prompted Chairman Mao Zedong to send Chinese volunteers across the river and into the fight.

These days, photos and videos show not a war zone or DMZ, but rather a peaceful body of water flowing 795 kilometers (493 miles) from the scenic Changbai Mountains to  the Korea Bay. Along its route to the sea the Yalu passes five scenic areas and rushes by 205 islands, 178 of  which are Korean and 78 of which are Chinese.

 The river exhibits a steady drop along it circuitous route which, combined with seasonal rains, makes it an ideal source of hydroelectric power. Six dams harness the enormous power of the river. Three are managed by China, two by the DPRK, and one jointly. A joint administration overseas operations and power output is shared equally by both parties. River management and fish resource management are also a joint ventures. 

Yalu Friendship Bridge.jpgThe Friendship Bridge by Night (

The Yalu enters Korea Bay at its southwest terminus and is flanked by the city of Sinuiju on the DPRK side and Dandong on the PRC side. The cities are connected by the Friendship Bridge which carries a steady stream of traffic across the river. (There is a railway bridge further upstream). To relieve traffic congestion and to expand infrastructure a new bridge across the Yalu has been built. Roads on the DPRK side have yet to be built and the opening of the bridge has been postponed from its scheduled 2014 opening. 

New Yalu Bridge.jpeg

                           The New Yalu River Bridge  (

 Lush, green and scenic most of the year, the Yalu or Amnok river not only marks the border between continues, but also offers the promise of peaceful development  of one of Asia’s more important water features.