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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Seoul subway/metro/tube 30 years

The number of Seoul subway lines has doubled from four to eight since the first time I visited Korea in 1994; this is one way of grasping that it's been a while. Back then the subway system was some 20 years old, and now, two days ago on August 15, was the 30th anniversary of the opening of the first 7.8 km line between Seoul Station and Cheongnyangni (Chosun Ilbo).
Congratulations. 건승을 빕니다.

At the moment the combined length of lines is the 4th longest in the world behind London, New York and Tokyo, and the number of daily passangers 3rd behind Moscow and Tokyo. It's share of the Seoul traffic is 35% (cars 27%, bus 26% and taxis 7%). The number of stations is 263, and daily passangers (means surely daily trips taken) 6.3 million - yearly 2.2 billion (22 ôk)

Seoul Subway line 2, March 30, 2000. (c) AL

My favorite Seoul subway line? Of course line 2 (the green one) is closest to my heart, as that runs closest to the place where I've stayed in Seoul and that's what I've taken the most. I like the sections that run on the ground the most; somehwere between Yeongdeungpo and Shindaebang, going underground before the Shillim station, and the bridges over Han river. Crossing the river by subway gives a chance to check the condition of the air: how many bridges are visible?

I sort of considered myself having become somewhat alleywise when I figured out a way from Sillim 2-dong through the streets and alleys of Bongcheon-dong to the Bongcheon station. Sure I was often too lazy or tired not to take the "village bus" (maûl pôsû) from the SNU station - as if that trip in a usually full-packed small bus could give me any rest.
Line 2 also took me from Sillim-dong to the Hwanghak-dong second-hand market near Dongdaemun for the necessary boarding room supplies such as tv and electric fan; making the trip took at least half of the day, but it was always touristically fun.

There was the learning of the small things to make the subway trip more comfortable (or less uncomfortable, depending on the circumstances); learning the nerve to get a person to move one's behind on the bench (아, 저기 자리 있네요...) so that I could have a seat. Finding out and remembering the logistically best places in a train for a transfer: that is especially important when transferring from line 2 to line 4 in Sadang, when it's good to be a bit ahead of the biggest hordes packing into the corridor and the stairs.

This is Seoul subway line map, perhaps the most important abstraction of the geography of the ROK capital.

(Click the picture for the original-size map to open in a new window)

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