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Hangang Railway Bridges

Hangang Bike Path
Learn about the oldest bridges on the Han River in Seoul.

A cluster of four railroad bridges (aerial view) crosses the Han River in the middle of Seoul. Built at different times in Korea’s history, each claims the name Hangang Railway Bridge (한강철교: map) and measure about 1.1-kilometers long.

Today, these bridges carry trains and subways. However, the pillars that support them hold the country’s history. 

Look at Bridge A — the inside, single-track bridge with green trestles. This bridge with an unremarkable name bears a remarkable past.

The Wide Han

The Han River is no ordinary river. Its width in Seoul reaches a kilometer (1,000 m; 3,280 ft).

Let’s compare that to the Thames and Seine in London and Paris. They measure 450 (1,476 ft) and 200 meters (656 ft) at their widest.

Because of limited technology, Koreans only use ferries to cross the Han for millennia. Hangang Railway Bridge A was the first to span the river’s banks when it opened in 1900.

Detonation of the Hangang Bridges

At the start of the Korean War in 1950, North Korean troops surged across the 38th Parallel. They were tracking mud on Seoul’s doormat within a few days.

To slow the North’s advance, a panicked colonel in the ROK (South Korean military) ordered the detonation of all bridges across the Han, including Hangang Railway Bridges A, B, and C, and the Hangang footbridge. But 4,000 souls were still fleeing across them. Eight hundred perished.

Seoul’s economic expansion after the Korean War rebuilt the bridges in the 1950s and 60s.