Rapid development of transportation: subway

Public transportation in Korea is cheap and accessible. Although Korean moms love their cars, people prefer to use buses or the subway when commuting to work or the city.

The present-day construction of a subway is extensive and fast. Within the past 10 months that we have been living here, 3 more subway stations were opened on our Bundang line.  The closest subway station from our house used to be a mile away. Now, Luther University (Yongin) got its own station with a direct connection to Seoul. (See photos) Moreover, Yongin is not the last suburban city on that line. Yeongtong with Kyung Hee University have a subway connection now as well. The next city to be included is Suwon with its UNESCO protected Hwaseong Fortress and KTX (high speed rail) train.

To imagine the Korean subway system, we can compare and contrast it to some compatible metro systems of other counties. For example, unlike the NYC metro, the Korean subway has almost no express lines, which makes train commuting time consuming. In Korea there is only one DX (express) red line. Therefore, depending on the destination, often it is more practical to use an express bus. However, unlike the NYC metro, the Korean subway is much safer because it has sliding doors along the edge of the platforms at almost all stations. In the worst case, the platform will have a metal railing blocking the edge of the platform. Such reasonable safety precautions are also the reason why the tracks are extra clean and trash free.

To continue, unlike the Moscow subway that boasts award-winning designers, architects, materials and artwork, Korean stations are very generic with cookie-cutter designs. All 5-8 year old stations look absolutely alike and were built with the same materials and layout. Therefore, when using the newer subway stations it is important to read the direction signs.

Finally, unlike the London tube, it is very easy to navigate the Korean subway. Stations have names in Korean, English, Chinese, and if all fails – stations are numbered. Inside a train car the announcements are made verbally in three languages and visually in the same three languages on TV screens. Free Wi-Fi and cell phone signal are working underground, which means it is very easy to consult a subway app on a smartphone to make sure you are still heading in the right direction.

Overall, other than the fact that the Korean subway system is so slow, it seems to be a superior one to many in the modern world. However, when you take under consideration that the other metro systems were built a 100 years back, the credit has to be given where it is due, because it seems that the Koreans had a chance to study the existing subway systems before building theirs.


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