Korea and the Trans-Siberian Railway


Korea and the Trans-Siberian Railway

At 9288 kilometers, the Trans-Siberian Railway’s distance from Moscow to Vladivostok is more than twice the distance between Boston and San Francisco; and spans across seven time zones. The first construction of this railway started in 1891 and became connected to Vladivostok in 1916. The trip on rail, taken today, takes 6 nights and 7 days long.

With ongoing economic development and cooperation between South Korea and Russia, talks over potentially connecting the South Korea’s railway system from Busan, and of course Seoul, in South Korea to the Trans Siberian Railway have recently been on the table for future consideration. At present, the Moscow to Pyongyang (North Korea’s capital city) is 10,267 kilometers – which is already the world’s second longest published train route.

Talks are currently in progress in East Asia to plug South Korea’s rails into the Trans Siberian Railway which will make moving cargo (shipments) from South Korea to Europe 3 times faster than now.

♦ Value-Added Insight ♦

In the YouTube video below — please view the clip @ 15:50 to 15:55 — it says that 15,000 coolies were recruited from China to work on the Trans Siberian Railroad. Now, typically, the term coolie (as used during the 19th century) was meant to refer to laborers from China or India.

However, and for building the Ussuri segment of the Trans Siberian Railway many of the workers were actually of Korean origin, and not Chinese. Thus, the video is technically inaccurate, and placed false to give credit to, and by saying that workers were from China because the photo (in the YouTube clip) actually shows Korean workers in their video segment which starts from 15:50 and which ends at 15:55.

Was this a cultural gap between East Asia and the West, or was it just an inadvertent mistake (oversight) by the documentary producers? Any Korean, or East Asian sociologist, would have been to easily spot and identify the “Sang-Too” hair-style in the photos which is unique and a distinct characteristic of Korean culture in the East Asian region.



Compared with the Video Clip, an article which was published November 1899, in McClure’s Magazine, properly shows the same photo of the workers as a “Group of Korean Coolie workmen” in its description.

Please click HERE to see the same photo with the Korean workmen shown with correct acknowledgement (contributions to building the Trans Siberian Railway) and their role in history.

♦ Food for Thought ♦

Even without the participation of South Korea, it is highly likely that Russia will once again increase the utilization of connected railways between China and Europe, via Russia, as an alternative to sea shipping routes. Such collaborative movement coupled with other BRICS activities — such as the Plan to build a Trans-Asia Railway between China and India through Tibet as announced this week — will have impact on world trade and on how the shipment of goods, and tourism, will be done in the future.

Today, more tourists are beginning to take a ferry boat from South Korea to Vladivostok (long vacation); and then on to ride on the Trans-Siberian Railway on to Moscow, or Saint Petersburg, and elsewhere in Europe. Such tourism activity was helped by the recently adopted “no-visa” travel agreement between Russia and South Korea which went into effect earlier this year in January.

♦ Language Footnote 

  • Sang-Too (or otherwises spelt as “Sangtu”) // 상투 // Topknot

♦ Related Outside Stories and External Links via the World Wide Web ♦

♦ More information from YouTube 

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