West Sea Barrage, Nampo
The West Sea Barrage, also known as the Nampo Dam, is a must-see if you are in the Nampo area.
Nampo, North Korea's Southwest.
In the 1980s North Korea was looking to build its economy and assert itself on the world stage.
The Taedong (translation - great east) River is the lifeblood of Pyongyang and South Hamgyong Province.
Starting in the Rangrim mountains in the middle of the country, it runs through Pyongyang and empties into the sea 40km southwest of the capital near the special city of Nampo.
As with most rivers, it is wide, saline and tidal as it enters the sea, and these factors presented problems.
The width of the river estuary limited trade and transport between North Hwanghae and South Pyongan provinces, whilst the salinity and tidal nature of the river impacted farming lands in the surrounding area, as well as shipping traffic up to the capital.
From this, the idea of the West Sea Barrage was born.
Constructing the West Sea Barrage employed 30000 soldiers and countless thousands more civilians.
Over the following 5 years, 280,000 tonnes of steel, 1,100,000 tonnes of cement and millions of cubic metres of gravel and sand were deposited in the sea-river in an epic war of man against nature.
In 1986, the sea was finally tamed and the work completed.
Official figures put the cost of the work on the West Sea Barrage at $4bn. However, such estimates don’t translate accurately between centrally planned and free-market economies.
The barrage was opened by the President Kim Il Sung on 24 June 1986.
West Sea Barrage has been a source of pride for North Koreans ever since.
It is 8km long with 36 sluices which can be opened or lowered in the rainy season, plus 3 locks for shipping traffic and 3 fish ladders.
It has seawater on one side and fresh water on the other and the top provides a vital road and rail connection between North Hwanghae and South Pyongan provinces.
You can find images of the West Sea Barrage onto banknotes, and it regularly forms the backdrop of TV news bulletins and karaoke videos.
Most visitors arrive from Nampo or Pyongyang (and therefore the north), although if you have spent the day in South Hwanghae you will approach from the other direction.
Either way, you will drive a section of the barrage to get to the visitor centre on Pi Islet.
The visitor centre is in a lighthouse which resembles an anchor and doubles as the monument to the West Sea Barrage construction.
There is a small snack/ souvenir shop, toilet facilities, and coffee. The coffee is not Pyongyang barista quality, but you’re out in the country now and it’s decent enough to drink whilst watching the video.
Upon arrival, you will be sat down and shown a video of the construction of the barrage.
Even if you are eager to get out and take photos, it is only ten minutes or so and worth viewing if only to understand the effort that went into constructing it and the pride that Koreans retain in it to today.
Further on the West Sea Barrage: