North Korea–Russia border

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The Tumen River with the Friendship Bridge, seen from a view point near the Sino-Russo-Korean border junction. Russia (Khasan) is on the left of the river, North Korea on the right.

The border between Russia and North Korea, according to the Russian official definition, consists of 17 kilometres (11 mi) of "terrestrial border" and 22.1 km (12 nautical miles) of "maritime border". By any definition (the "terrestrial border" only, or the "terrestrial border" plus the "maritime border"), it is the shortest of all international borders of the Russian Federation.[1]


The so-called "terrestrial boundary" between Russia and North Korea actually runs along the fairway of the Tumen River and its estuary; the "maritime boundary" separates the two countries' territorial waters in the Sea of Japan.[2]

There are several bilateral agreements concerning the North Korea–Russia border.[3] The principal border treaty currently in force is "The Agreement between the USSR and the DPRK on the position of the line of the Soviet-Korean border" (Russian: Договор между Союзом Советских Социалистических Республик и Корейской Народно-Демократической Республикой о прохождении линии советско-корейской государственной границы), signed on April 17, 1985.[3]

A special trilateral treaty specifies the position of the point of junction of the borders of Russia, North Korea, and China.[4] The China–North Korea border and the North Korea–Russia border runs along the middle of the Tumen River, while the China–Russia border approaches the junction point overland, from the north. Since the notional tripoint is in the middle of the river, and it would be impractical to install a border monument there, the agreement provides instead that the three countries install border monuments on the river bank instead, and the position of the tripoint be determined with respect to those monuments.[4]

On the Russian side of the border, the adjacent administrative unit is the Khasansky District of Primorsky Krai; on the Korean side, the city of Rason. The main Russian border guard station in the area is Peschanaya.

Border crossing

File:Friendship Bridge DPRK-Russia.jpg
The Friendship Bridge linking North Korea and Russia. Korea is in the foreground and Khasan is on the right. The tower on the left is in Chinese territory.

There is one border crossing on the North Korea–Russia border: the Friendship Bridge on the Tumen River,[2] located 800 m southwest of the Russian station Khasan, in the eponymous town. On the North Korean side, the border train station is at Tumangang.

This is a railway-only crossing,[2] used by freight and passenger trains. There is no border crossing for road vehicles or pedestrians.[5]

As of 2008, the passenger service over the Friendship Bridge includes a Khasan-Tumangan shuttle train, as well as a Korean State Railway's direct rail car for the Moscow-Pyongyang service. The direct car travels from Moscow to Ussuriysk with a Moscow-Vladivostok train, and then to Khasan with an Ussuriysk-Khasan train; it crosses the border with the Khasan-Tumangan shuttle train, and then continues to Pyongyang with a domestic Korean train. At 10,272 km (6,383 mi) total route length, this is believed to be the longest direct (one-seat ride) passenger rail service in the world.[6]

In 2008, two Western tourists succeeded in taking a train from Russia to North Korea via the Friendship Bridge. However, normally the crossing is only used by citizens of Russia and North Korea, and is not open to third-country nationals.[6]

In April 2015, Deputy Ministers of Transport of Russia and North Korea, Nikolai Asaul and Kwok Il-ryong, signed an agreement on developing a road connection between Russia and North Korea.[5]

History and importance

The border between Russian Empire and Korean Kingdom (then, a tributary state of the Qing Empire) came into existence as a result of the treaty between China and Russia signed in Beijing in November 1860. Under the agreement, the Qing Empire ceded to the Russian Empire the territories east of the Ussuri River; the description of the border between the two Russian and Qing Empires included the lower course (the last 20 li [about 10.75–13 kilometres or 6.68–8.08 miles]) of the Tumen River as its southernmost section.[7][8]

Although the existence of Korea as a separate country was not even mentioned in the 1860 Sino-Russian agreement, Chinese influence in Korea waned, and Japanese grew, during the late 19th and early 20th century. The Treaty of Shimonoseki (1895) ended the Chinese protectorate over Korea, while the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1905 made Korea a protectorate of Japan; the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910 finalized the annexation of Korea by Japan. Thus, the Tumen River border became a border between the Russian Empire (later, the USSR) and the Japanese Empire; this situation continued until the fall of the Japanese rule in Korea in 1945.

Regardless of who was in charge in Korea, the coastal strips of Russian and Korean territory completely separated China from the Sea of Japan.

To develop the natural resources of its coastal strip, and to protect its borders against a potential Japanese invasion, in 1938 the USSR began the construction of a railway line from Baranovsky Junction on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Kraskino. The 190-kilometre-long (120 mi) railway was completed in 1941. After the end of World War II this railway was extended from Kraskino to Khasan, on the Korean border, its total length reaching was 238 km (148 mi). The Khasan station was opened on September 28, 1951.

Soon, a temporary wooden bridge was built across the Tumen River, and in 1952 the first train crossed from Russia to North Korea.

In 1990, the Soviet Union and North Korea signed an agreement on the establishment of the state border along the fairway (thalweg) of the Tumen. The former Noktundo Island, 32 square kilometres (12 sq mi) in size, was recognized by North Korea as part of Russia. This agreement was not recognized by South Korea, which continues to consider Noktundo as Korean territory.

In the second half of the 20th century, thousands of North Korean refugees and displaced people crossed the border. Their descendants live throughout the Russian Federation and other Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries to this day.

River bank protection

Since the North Korean side of the river is high and mountainous, and the Russian side is lower, shore erosion may cause the Tumen River, which floods annually, to gradually change its course toward the Russian side. (A similar phenomenon is observed on the China–Russia border at the Amur River as well). To prevent the loss of the national territory and to protect the town of Khasan and the border guard station Peschanoye from flooding, Russian authorities carried out a river bank protection project, using rock fill, in 2004-2008.[9]

Political significance

Taking advantage of the existence of the common border between the two countries, on January 19, 2013 the leader of the LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovsky offered to invite North Korea to become a member of the Eurasian Customs Union.


  1. See the tables at Сопредельные страны (Neighboring countries), at the Russia's border agency's (Rosgranitsa) official site
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Северная Корея (North Korea), at the Russia's border agency's (Rosgranitsa) official site
  3. 3.0 3.1 Информация о международных соглашениях (Information on international agreements)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Соглашение между Правительством Российской Федерации, Правительством Китайской Народной Республики и Правительством Корейской Народно-Демократической Республики об определении линии разграничения пограничных водных пространств трех государств на реке Туманная (Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation, the Government of the People's Republic of China, and the Government of the People's Democratic Republic of Korea, determining the line of delimitation of the water spaces of the three states on the Tumen River) (Russian)
  5. 5.0 5.1 North Korea, Russia sign road connection deal, 2015-04-16
  6. 6.0 6.1 Entering North Korea at Tumangan, part of the series, The forbidden railway: Vienna - Pyongyang 윈 - 모스크바 - 두만강 - 평양. Our train trip via Russia to North Korea - using an officially closed to foreigners route inside the "Hermit Kingdom". See other parts of the series for train route details etc.
  7. See Article 1 of the 1860 agreement between the Russian Empire and the Qing Empire (大清國): s:ru:Пекинский договор (1860), s:zh:中俄北京條約
  8. Alyssa Park, From Fluid Borderland to Divided Spaces: Transformation of the Russian-Korean Borderland, 1860-1937 (research proposal).
  9. Работы по укреплению берегов реки Туманной на границе России и КНДР завершатся в этом году (The Tumen riverbank protection work will be completed this year), 2008-02-21

External links