Had some business in Yeoncheon today — just a hop, skip and a jump from Cheorwon — so I popped by the famous Nodongdangsa, or former Cheorwon office of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

Sintan-ni Station

Sintan-ni Station

Sintan-ni Station

Yeoncheon’s Sintan-ni Station is the end of the line… at least in South Korea. Prior to the national division, the Seoul-Wonsan Line used to run all the way to, well, Wonsan. Now, it ends at Sintan-ni. With Mt. Godaesan nearby, you’ll find tons of hikers.

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers’ Party of Korea

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

Former Cheolwon Office of the Workers' Party of Korea (Nodongdangsa)

The former Cheorwon office of the Workers’ Party of Korea (KWP) is one the most powerful — and painful — reminders of Korea’s national division.

Constructed in Soviet style using Soviet building techniques, this concrete edifice was erected in 1946 to serve, as the name would suggest, as the regional headquarters of the KWP. The KWP, of course, is North Korea’s ruling party, and the Cheorwon area — located as it is north of the 38th parallel — originally fell under North Korean administration. Then came the Korean War, and when the armistice ending the fighting was finally signed in 1953, South Korean/UN forces controlled Cheorwon…after some brutal fighting in the so-called “Iron Triangle.”

The area where the ruins of the KWP office are located used to be the downtown of a fairly large town — before the war, Cheorwon was a major road and railway hub. During the war, however, the town was wiped off the map. And it was never rebuilt — Cheorwon’s downtown is now located quite some distance away, while the old downtown is nothing more than scattered ruins in the rice paddies. It’s all very surreal.

You have to give Soviet-style engineering credit, though — the KWP office managed to survive relatively intact, even if repeated artillery bombardment caused the roof to collapse. The bullet marks on the walls testify to the building’s violent history, although only part of it — to even build the structure, the North Koreans forced contributions from local residents and mobilized forced labor (although only KWP members were allowed to work on the interior). It’s said anti-communists were tortured and killed here as well.

UPDATE: Did I mention the Seungil-gyo Bridge (see also here) is nearby, too?