We have updated our previous compilation of transit-related weblinks for Korea, and have included tips for "armchair" aerial reconnaissance north of the DMZ.
Republic of Korea
daehan minguk (“South Korea”)
The ROK had no metros (subways) until 15 August 1974, when Seoul opened its first line. Seoul opened an amazing 160 km (100 mi) of new metro lines during the 1990s, and now has a network of about 280 km (175 mi), including Korea Railroad Corporation ("Korail") lines used for through running. Other systems have been opened in Busan (1985), Daegu (1997), Incheon (1999), Gwangju (opened 28 April 2004) and Daejeon (opened 16 March 2006).
A note about transcription of Korean place names into the Latin alphabet: there are several systems and Koreans themselves do not agree which is best. Part of the problem is that the language has many phonetic shifts (e.g. “k” to “g”) - and much disagreement on how (and whether) these should be represented in “romanized” form. We have followed the lead of the excellent UrbanRail.Net (formerly metroPlanet) website in deciding how to spell Korean city names; these are based on the “official” spellings adopted by the ROK in 2000.
We have also included city names in Hangeul ( 한글 Korea’s native phonetic alphabet) and Chinese characters, which Koreans refer to as Hanja ( 한자 (漢字) ).
부산 (釜山) Busan (4 million)
Busan Transit Corporation official website, in Korean: http://www.subway.busan.kr/korea/main/
UrbanRail.Net page: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/busa/busan.htm
Osamu Abe map: http://osamuabe.infoseek.livedoor.com/subway/mappage/pusan.gif
JoHoMaps: http://www.johomaps.com/as/korea/busan/busanmetro_en.html . Click “middle“ button (gray background) at bottom of map (labeled 한글 ) to see map with stations labeled in Hangeul, and “right“ button (blue background, labeled 漢字 )to see map with stations labeled in Hanja.
대구 (大邱) Daegu (2.5 million)
Daegu Metropolitan Subway official website, in English:
UrbanRail.Net page: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/daeg/daegu.htm
Osamu Abe map: http://osamuabe.infoseek.livedoor.com/subway/mappage/taegu.gif
Metro development in Daegu was marred by construction accidents that killed a total of 124 people, and an arson attack on February 18, 2003, that killed 198 people. Service was suspended for a time after the tragedy. The convicted arsonist, who had a history of mental problems, was sentenced to life in prison at August 2003.
대전 (大田) Daejeon (1.4 million)
Daejon Subway Construction Company Association official website
http://www.djsubway.com (Korean only)
Daejon Express Transit Corporation official website http://www.djet.co.kr / (Korean only)
UrbanRail.Net page: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/daej/daejeon.htm
Osamu Abe map: http://osamuabe.ld.infoseek.co.jp/subway/mappage/daejeon.gif
광주 (光州) Gwangju (1.4 million)
Gwangju Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation official website:
http://www.subway.gwangju.kr (Korean only)
Gwangju Metropolitan Subway Construction Headquarters official website:
http://subway.gjcity.net (Korean only).
UrbanRail.Net page: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/gwan/gwangju.htm
Osamu Abe map: http://osamuabe.ld.infoseek.co.jp/subway/mappage/gwangju.gif
인천 (仁川) Incheon (2.5 million)
Incheon Rapid Transit Corporation official website, in English:
http://www.irtc.co.kr / (click “English” near top right).
UrbanRail.Net page: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/inch/incheon.htm
Osamu Abe map: http://osamuabe.infoseek.livedoor.com/subway/mappage/inchon.gif
서울 Seoul (9.6 million)
Seoul Metropolitan Subway Company (lines 1-4) official website, in English:
http://www.seoulmetro.co.kr/index.jsp (click “English” near top right).
Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation (lines 5-8) official website, in English:
Seoul Metro Line9 Corporation official website, in English (line under construction):
Korean National Railroad (“KoRail”) official website, in English (trains use Seoul subway Line 1):
UrbanRail.Net page: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/seou/seoul.htm
Osamu Abe map: http://osamuabe.infoseek.livedoor.com/subway/mappage/seoule.gif
Guro station, Seoul, 24 July 1980. Photo by Leroy W. Demery, Jr.
Guro ( 구로 (九老) ) station, southeast of central Seoul, is the junction between two Korail lines: Gyeongbu ( 경부선 (京釜線); "Seoul-Busan") and Gyeongin ( 경인선 (京仁線); "Seoul-Incheon"). Seoul's first subway connected with the Gyeongbu Line near Seoul Station and extended eastward to Cheongnyangni. Here, trains joined the Korail Gyeongwon Line ( 경원선 (京元線)and continued northeast to Seongbuk ( 성북 (城北) ) station. The "original" Line 1 project included the new 7.8-km (4.8 mi) metro line, and electrification of Korail lines lines south to Suweon, west to Incheon and north to Seongbuk. (Korail was then the Korean National Railroad, or KNR.) Also of interest: traction current on the metro proper is 1,500 V dc, and 25,000 V 60 Hz ac on KNR lines. In the photo above, the ivory and train at left is owned by the Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corporation (now Seoul Metro), and the blue and ivory train at right is owned by KNR. Some of the durable 1000-class trains, rebuilt and modernized, continue in service, as seen at Guro on 3 January 2007:
A photo showing the Guro station area today (24 March 2007, Korean "Wikipedia"):
The “Life in Korea” website has an interesting “Subway Information Page”
The excellent “Future Railway Database” [미래철도DB , Miryae Childo DB] by Han Woo-jin [한우진] covers various planned subway and railway projects, but only in Korean.
South Korea has developed an Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) system patterned after the Mucha Line in Taipei, the Bukit Pajan "LRT" system in Singapore, and new AGT lines planned in Hong Kong. The "K-AGT" (Korea-Automated Guideway Transit) system is very similar to the standardized Japanese design, and uses rubber-tired stock.
The name of the "K-AGT" system, in Korean, is
한국경전철 (韓國輕電鐵) hanguk gyeongcheon-cheol, literally “Korea [e.g. developed in Korea] electric light railway.”
Interest in AGT was stimulated by the rising cost of full-scale subway construction. Another issue: Within Seoul proper, subways carry 33.8 percent of traffic, buses carry 28.8 percent, taxis 9.2 percent and autos 19.6 percent. But, in newly-developed suburbs, autos carry 50-80 percent of all traffic.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
chosŏn minjujuŭi inmin konghwaguk (“North Korea”)
The DPRK started building a subway in P'yŏngyang, its capital, in 1968. The first line opened in 1973, and the P'yŏngyang Metro thereby became the first on the Korean Peninsula (a point which DPRK "publicity" writers did not fail to emphasize). Since then, progress has been limited to extension of the original line and opening of a second. The total network length is 22.5 km (13.9 mi).
(Note that the DPRK retains the older McCune-Reischauer romanization system; it also refers to Hangeul as Chosŏn'gŭl ( 조선글 ). Hanja are not used in the DPRK, but are taught in its secondary schools. For historic reasons that defy concise explanation, the ROK and the DPRK use different names for the nominally unified country.)
평양 (平壤) P'yŏngyang (2 - 3 million; sources disagree)
UrbanRail.Net page: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/pyon/pyongyang.htm
Simon Bone’s very detailed - and very unofficial - P'yŏngyang metro page
Osamu Abe’s P'yŏngyang map
Rob Dickinson’s “Pyongyang's Transport of Delight” page, including photos of surface (and river) transport:
P'yŏngyang metro system page (English and Chinese) by “Albert”
(“Albert” also has a page with links to scanned street maps, most of them apparently published in China, of North Korean cities: http://uk.geocities.com/hkgalbert/kpmap.htm .)
“Google Maps” ( http://maps.google.com/maps ) has no street maps for Korea, but does have good satellite images; these may be viewed down to the “50 m” scale - for some areas.
It is possible to spot public transport facilities in P'yŏngyang using the “Google Maps” satellite images - and a good reference map. For example, we found a tram terminal and depot in the Tosong district, southwest of the Chungson Bridge across the Taedong River. The reference map we used (Tarkhov and Merzlov November-December 2002) shows the terminal loop but not the depot.
A remarkable online “collaborative” project, titled “Community Mapping Experiment -- European Subways:
http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Cat/0/Number/223131/page/vc includes a map titled “PYONGYANG (NORTH KOREA) map” http://bbs.keyhole.com/ubb/showthreaded.php/Cat/0/Number/262648/page/vc/vc/1 (click “View in Google Maps”). This is an “overlay” (produced by a “third party,” as Google puts it) to the Google Maps satellite images, and may be slow to load. In addition, the overlay images are “displaced” to some degree with reference to the underlying satellite images.
In order to see public transport routes, you’ll have to increase the magnification from the “default” 50-km scale. It’s best to do this one “notch” at a time.
Key to “overlay” colors:
Orange (thick): Metro line 1 (“Chollima Line”).
Blue (thick): Metro line 2 (“Hyoksin Line”).
Light Blue-green: Trolleybus.
“Tram” lines include the unconnected meter-gauge line between Samhung metro station (Chollima Line) and Kumsusan Memorial Palace, the (reputed) former residence and current mausoleum of DPRK founder (and “Eternal President”) Kim Il-sung. The tramway, located northeast of central P'yŏngyang, was built to carry visitors to the memorial palace, and uses trams purchased secondhand from Zürich. Reported operating hours, 800-1200, coincide with the opening hours of the memorial palace.
A photo showing the entrance to Pulgunbyol ( 붉은별) station (the name means "Red Star"), which is the north terminal of the Chollima (“Orange”) line (Japanese "Wikipedia," 2 May 2007):
Although not obvious from the photo, the building is hexagon-shaped; see here.
We believe that the photographer stood not far southeast of the building (in the street - obviously little risk from traffic), during the afternoon hours.
The "WikiMapia" project has identified a number of locations in and near P'yŏngyang, and elsewhere in North Korea. (Some have interesting labels such as "Possible location of the 815th Mechanized Corps.") This site is very easy to use: simply enter the city of interest in the "search" field at top left, or drag the map to the area of interest and zoom in.
Simon Bone’s website states that each of the two metro lines has an “open-air depot,” at Pulgunbyol and at Kwangbok, the western end of the Hyoksin (“Blue”) line. If this is true, then these facilities are (extremely) well hidden: we could find not a trace of anything resembling an “open-air” metro depot.
Tarkhov and Merzlov (July-August 2002) state:
. . . there are 21 urban and at least 6 suburban trolleybus systems in North Korea (confirmed by official sources). There are perhaps a further eight systems but these have not yet been verified by reliable sources.
. . . it is possible that there are other small systems, about which the central Korean mass media has never reported.
We went down the list and found that “Google Maps” has “50 m” scale satellite images for:
해주 (海州) Haeju
함흥 (咸興) Hamhŭng
남포 (南浦) Nampho
신의주 (新義州) Sinŭiju
순천 (順天) Sunch'ŏn
원산 (元山) Wŏnsan
And, on the list of “unverified” systems:
구성 (龜城) Kusŏng
Tarkhov and Merzlov (November-December 2002) provide maps for all of the above except Sunch'ŏn and Kusŏng. Magnification at the “50 m” scale is not quite sufficient to identify vehicles unambiguously as trolleybuses, but readers so inclined might derive considerable amusement from “armchair” aerial reconnaissance of DPRK public transport.
FarRail Tours http://www.farrail.net / , see links at top of page to "Trip Reports - Maps" and "Galleries."
Foss, Clive. 1997. "The Streetcars of Pyongyang." Headlights 59, 10-12 (October-December 1997).
__________. 2000. "The Streetcars of Pyongyang." Headlights 62, 1-6 (January-June 2000).
Lankov, Andrei. "[Another Korea] (99) Laying Down the Lines." The Korea Times, 2004.10.27.
Tarkhov, Sergei and Dmitriy Merzlov. 2002. "North Korean Surprises". Trolleybus Magazine No. 244, July-August 2002.
__________. "North Korean Surprises - Part 2". Trolleybus Magazine No. 245 (September-October 2002).
__________. 2002. "North Korean Surprises - Part 3". Trolleybus Magazine No. 246 (November-December 2002).
最近北韓五萬分之一地形圖 (최근북한오만분지일지형도) Ch‘oegeun Pukhan oman punji il chihyeongdo. 1997 (OCLC No. 39510965). Seoul: 景仁文化社 (경인문화사) Kyeongin Munhwasa.
This remarkable two-volume set is a reprint of 1:50,000 scale maps of the DPRK, compiled in 1981 by the Soviet Joint Chiefs of Staff - and, we speculate, sold to the ROK by Russia following the 1991 collapse of the USSR. Maps are very detailed and show, for example, railways, roads, all significant waterways, with depth and current flow . . . information very useful for military purposes. Maps are labeled in hangeul, hanja (Sino-Japanese characters) and romaja (Latin alphabet). Also remarkable is the price - about (US) $3,000 for the set.