Commercial satellite imagery shows that truck traffic at North Korea’s most important international trade border with China is beginning to return to normal. For the first time since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, imagery shows multiple trucks queued, waiting to enter a customs yard in Sinuiju—the final stop before crossing into China.
Long lines of trucks were a common sight prior to North Korea’s three-year-long border closure that began in January 2020. Rather than crowd the North Korean customs yards, trucks typically wait along the city streets to enter the yard, which is next to the Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge.
In the latest image from January 23, trucks can be seen once again in this position.
Additionally, imagery shows several trucks in a customs yard at Dandong on the Chinese side of the border. Trucks typically wait in this yard before crossing into North Korea.
To the south of Sinuiju, the New Yalu River Bridge remains quiet. The Chinese customs facility is snow-covered, and recently built customs gates are empty. A new partially constructed building is visible. On the North Korean side, there appears to be no movement that would indicate an imminent opening.
This truck traffic isn’t the first observed between the two countries since the border closure began to ease last year. Trucks have occasionally been seen crossing between the two countries at other border crossings, and it’s possible this has happened before at Sinuiju but was not captured in satellite imagery.
In early 2022, the rail crossing at Sinuiju was opened to freight traffic. Goods imported into the country were transported to a new quarantine center and left for several months before being released.
That quarantine lessened in 2023, and in the last few months, North Korean citizens have been allowed back into the country after being kept out for several years. North Korea remains closed to foreign businesspeople and tourists, although there are signs that this may soon change.
The apparent resumption of truck traffic is a further sign of North Korea’s reopening and good news for the country’s industries that rely on imports and exports.