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Crisscrossing Korea with subways

I am constantly amazed at how much Korea’s transportation system has improved since my first arrival in this country.  I am sure that many of you old timers will remember the illustrious “push men” – the young men hired to literally shove passengers into the super-crowded subways.  Considering the number of people on those subways and the inability of anyone to move – and this is no exaggeration – including their arms, it is amazing that there were no serious accidents.  At the time, there were only four or five subway lines and all of them were busy.

Now we have subways everywhere.  I can remember I was especially pleased when subway line #9 (the gold line) opened because it made my own transportation that much easier.  It is getting to the point that sometime in the near future we will be able to travel from Uijongbu to Busan.  There are already subway lines in Daegu, Busan, Daejon, Gwangju, Incheon, and, of course, Seoul

Apparently there is another line – the Yongin Line.  The line was started in December 2005 and completed in June 2010  but still has not been opened.  Accord to Koject (with pictures):

Though the line was ready to begin operating, opening dates were repeatedly postponed. There has been much speculation over reasons why the line has lay dormant and several articles have mentioned different factors including risk of revenue loss without the Bundang Line extension. What can be said for sure is that Yongin residents must be extremely frustrated watching their brand new mode of transport towering over their city simply collecting dust. Officials have been calling for the line to be put in service but as of yet no date has been announced.

Subways in Korea are a great way to travel (provided you avoid the drunks at night – Koreans and foreigners) around the city at a very reasonable price.  The blog Seoul Sub-urban is a great site to visit if you would like to learn more about Seoul’s subway system and the sites around each of the stations.

  • http://coryinkorea.wordpress.com/ 코리아

    Huge losses is right, saw this story on Yonhap yesterday:
    http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2011/11/23/94/0302000000AEN20111123003800315F.HTML

    Growing problem right now is the aging population and how this has increased pressure on the “free ride” program which now accounts for about 40% of the subway line operators 800billion won deficit. I know that the purpose of these is not really to make money and that their economic value is still probably positive when its all said and done, but still that’s a huge number, so somethings gotta give especially as the problem will just be getting worse.

  • keith

    Seoul’s metro is great. It’s a very good way of getting around the city both economically and reasonably quickly. The drunks aren’t that bad really, I tend to get a lot more annoyed with the ‘etiquette’ of some of the older ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’. Some of the behaviour such as pushing, shoving, shouting and spitting is pretty barbaric.

    It’s a shame that one of the best public transport systems in the world is marred by a few folks for whom getting around by donkey or ox cart would be a more appropriate means of transport for their level of politeness and refinement.

    Sometimes I wish it ran a bit later, as some of the taxi drivers can be a little annoying at night, and the guards who work in the subway stations are usually very good chaps indeed. The people who work on the metro are usually polite, helpful and courteous.

  • Mryouknowwho

    Elderly foreign permanent residents think they deserve a free ride too, but aren’t getting it.

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/04/117_85083.html

  • http://koreanlanguagenotes.blogspot.com/ gbevers

    I came to Korea when there was only one subway line, but I do not really remember there being any “push men.” There may have been “push men,” but I just don’t remember them.

    However, I do remember “bus annae-yang’s,” who were very pushy young girls as tough as nails. They could stuff a bus full of people and still push their way through the crowd to collect the bus fare. They also had the sure-footedness of a mountain goat. That had to be one of the toughest jobs that any young girl could have.

    Link

  • PekingMan

    And line 1 remains the classiest of all the lines in Seoul, with the least drunk and power crazed ajosshi…I mean, good Confucian gentlemen in Korea!

  • http://pawikoreapics.blogspot.com/ pawikirogii 石鵝

    ‘And line 1 remains the classiest of all the lines in Seoul, with the least drunk and power crazed ajosshi…I mean, good Confucian gentlemen in Korea!’ 영웅

    you’re the one who thought using the equivalent of ‘nig%er’ as his handle would be cute, right?

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    However, I do remember “bus annae-yang’s,” who were very pushy young girls as tough as nails. They could stuff a bus full of people and still push their way through the crowd to collect the bus fare. They also had the sure-footedness of a mountain goat. That had to be one of the toughest jobs that any young girl could have.

    http://populargusts.blogspot.com/2011/06/return-of-bus-conductress.html

    http://populargusts.blogspot.com/2011/06/bus-conductress-update.html

  • shiweibo

    I love the fact that it’s an automated system (the no. 9 line)…really cool. Though, got me wondering, would that actually save that much money? I mean, I’m not sure if that’s their goal, just wondering if it would.

  • http://koreanlanguagenotes.blogspot.com/ gbevers

    #7,

    That’s a good article at “Gusts of Popular Feeling.”

    For some reason, I am somewhat nostalgic for those “crowded bus” days. Not only did Koreans back then seem more down-to-earth, but also by successfully fighting my way on and off a bus, I got a sense of accomplishment. You had to be alert to passing landmarks and the different sways of the bus to know when to start working your way toward the exit. It took some skill to gracefully slide, wedge, and twist your way past, between and under people. Those were the days.

  • Jashin Densetsu

    Not only did Koreans back then seem more down-to-earth

    they still seem pretty down-to-earth bro. they’re short midgets.

  • Arghaeri

    are there any tall midgets?

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    There are a lot of rail-transport projects underway at the moment, from various light-rail lines in underserved areas of Seoul, to initial subway and light-rail systems in suburban areas and smaller cities, to my favorite — the GTX high-speed (200 km/h) underground express rail project championed to connect Gyeonggi Province suburbs with each other and a few super-hubs in Seoul.

    A real visionary plan would shut down Line 2 — I know, I know — to rebuild it as a double-tracked system, in order that limited-stop express trains could run.

  • hamel

    Brendon: I love the idea of a system with limited express trains, but why limit it to line 2? Lines 3, 4 and others could use it too.

    Also, I think the most URGENT work needed on Seoul’s otherwise excellent subway system is to revamp the exits and transfer points at several of the older stations.

    Seoul and Shindorim subway stations, for example, were built to deal with the commuter traffic of 30-40 years ago. Now it is just dangerous – the Shindorim shuffle, I call it. Last week I tried to transfer from line 4 to line 1 at Seoul station after 6pm – bad idea. What happens when a panic starts and people start shoving down the stairs? Someone will die there one day. Sadly, knowing human nature, it will take that to happen before any work is done, because how can you shut down Seoul Station for any amount of time?