South Korean Metros

South Korean Metros/Subways

South Korea has six metro systems; Seoul, Incheon, Daejeon, Daegu, Gwangju and Busan. They are privately run but government funded/regulated, and all accept the T Money stored value card. The T-Money card is available from some station vending machines and convenience stores near stations. The card costs ₩3,000 (about A$2.60) for the card, which can be recharged at railway staiton vending machines. Special passes embedded in various objects can be purchased for between ₩5,000 – ₩8,000. These include solid plastic key tags and small fluffy toys.

I didn’t have any problems photographing trains on South Korean subways/metros (i.e. people telling me to stop), however I do advise you adhere to the following guidelines:

  • No flash photography (especially in underground sections)
  • Stay well clear of the tracks and/or platform edge
  • Hold a valid ticket when in ticketed areas
  • Don’t go to areas not generally accessed by members of the general public

Seoul & Incheon Subways

See: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/kr/seoul/seoul.htm

A Seoul Metro Line 1 train approaches Bucheon station

A Seoul Metro Line 1 train approaches Bucheon station

Seoul and the neighboring port city of Incheon are so close together that they appear as one city (a bit like Perth and Fremantle). Their subway systems interconnect with each other, so for all intents and purposes, they are one system. The Seoul Subway is one of, if not the largest in the world. It has a daily ridership of about 6,900,000 people, with 18 lines stretching over 957 route km.

A train on Incheon Subway Line 1 enters a tunnel at Gyulhyeon

A train on Incheon Subway Line 1 enters a tunnel at Gyulhyeon

Seoul subway has in-train wi-fi available on many lines. There was some wi-fi that purported to be free, but I have never been successful in connecting. There is also paid premium wi-fi available, with recharge vouchers sold at convenience stores.

Subway fares distance based and priced at ₩$1,150 for the first 10km (around A$1.00) then ₩100 for each subsequent 5km (around A$0.10).

Although the Incheon & Seoul Metro systems are completely interlinked, there are 6 individual operators of the Seoul/Incheon Metro system:

  • Incheon Rapid Transit Corporation (Incheon Line 1)
  • KoRail (most of Line 1, Ilsan Line, Gwacheon Line, Ansan line, Bundang Line and the Jungang Line)
  • Korail Airport Railroad (AREX)
  • Seoul Metropolitan Subway Corporation (Part of Line 1, Line 2, Line 3 & Line 4)
  • Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation (SMRT – Line 5, Line 6, Line 7 & Line 8)
  • Veolia (Line 9)

Line 1 is the longest line, with 4 branches to Incheon, Gwangmyeong, Suwon and Soyosan. The trains on line 1 are painted up in KoRail colours (the national operator) and there is a mixture of stopping and express trains throughout line 1. If you arrive by ferry to the port of Incheon, the closest subway station is on line 1 at Dongincheon, with the Yongsan Rapid service operating limited stops to the central Seoul station of Yongsan. Line 1 serves both Seoul and Yongsan KoRail (long distance) stations.

A train on Seoul's AREX (Airport Express) near Gyeyang station

A train on Seoul’s AREX (Airport Express) near Gyeyang station

AREX (Airport Express) links central Seoul (Seoul station) with Seoul Gimpo and Incheon airports. It also provides a link from Incheon, connecting with Incheon line 1 at Gyeying. AREX has a stopping and an express service; with the stopping service costing ₩3,700 (about A$3.30) and the express costing ₩13,100 (about A$11.50) for the journey from Seoul to Incheon Airport. The express service is only 10 minutes faster than the stopping service (53 vs 43 minutes). The stopping service operates up to every 6 minutes and the express service operates every 30 minutes. Both services are cheaper and faster than bus or taxi.

The Seoul/Incheon subway system provides connections to KoRail (long distance) stations at several locations, including:

  • Seoul (AREX, Gyeongui Line, Line 1, Line 4)
  • Yongsan (Jungang Line, Line 1)
  • Cheongnyangni  (Jungang Line, Line 1)
  • Yongdeungpo (Line 1)
  • Gwangmyeong (Line 1)
  • Haengsin (Gyeongui Line)
  • Suwon (Line 1)
  • Asan/CheonAsan (Line 1)

Although there are platform doors obstructing the view from many platforms, there are still some places to take photographs. Good places I found for photographs on the Seoul and Incheon subways are:

  • Dongincheon & Bucheon on the Incheon branch of Seoul line 1
  • Doksan on the Suwon branch of line 1
  • Gwangmyeong on line 1
  • Gyulhyeon on Incheon line 1
  • Other recomendations are welcome at the-rail-life@hotmail.com

Daejeon, Daegu and Gwangju Subways

Daejeon, Daegu & Gwangju subways are all small systems, fares are ₩1,200 (about A$1.05) per trip. Although the systems are functional and serve their purpose, they are completely underground and relatively uninteresting systems.

Daejeon

  • Line 1 – 22km long
  • Plans for 2 more lines
  • Connects with KoRail (long distance) at Dajeon Railway Station

Daegu

  • Line 1 – 25 km long
  • Line 2 – 31 km long
  • Line 3 (under construction) – will be 24 km long elevated monorail
  • Line 1 Connects with KoRail (long distance) at Daegu and Dongdaegu (East Daegu) Railway stations

Gwangju

  • Line 1 – 20 km long
  • Connectes with GwangjuSongjeong KoRail (long distance) station at Songjeong-ri
  • Does not connect with Gwangju station.

Busan Metro

See: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/kr/busan/busan.htm

A train on the driverless Busan Gimhae Light Rail (aka the Purple Line) in Busan.

A train on the driverless Busan Gimhae Light Rail (aka the Purple Line) in Busan.

Busan is South Korea’s second largest city, with a population of around 4.4 million. Busan’s Metro comprises of 5 lines, extending to the nearby city of Gimhae:

  • Line 1  (Pink Line) – 32.5 km long (part underground, part elevated)
  • Line 2  (Green Line) – 44.5 km long (part underground, part elevated)
  • Line 3 (Brown Line) – 18 km long (part underground, part elevated)
  • Line 4 (Blue Line) – 12.5 km long (part underground, part elevated)
  • Busan Gimhae Light Rail – 24 km long (completely elevated)

Fares are roughly distance based; a fare for 10 km or less is ₩1,200 (about A$1.05), over 10km is ₩1,400 (about A$1.20).

Line 4 and the Busan Gimhae Light Rail are driverless, Line 4 is rubber tyred and runs on a guideway system. The Gimhae Light Rail runs from Sasang in Busan’s west to Samgye in Gimhae’s west, via Gimhae International Airport and central Gimhae.

The most photogenic line is the Busan Gimhae Light Rail. It is all elevated, an has a large window at the front of each driverless train.

Connections are available to KoRail (long distance)

  • Busan Station (Line 1)
  • Bujeon Station (Line 1 – about 200m from Bujeon-dong subway station)
  • Sasang (Line 2 and Gimhae Light Rail)
  • Gupo (Line 3, also only about 400m from Gumyeong subway station on line 2)
  • Hwamyeong (Line 2)
  • Haeundae (Line 2)

There is no station serving the port of Busan (for ferries to Japan); the closest station is Nampo-dong on line 1, which is about 500m from the ferry terminal.

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7 responses to “South Korean Metros

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  3. With your knowledge of S Korea you may be able to help me. I am in Incheon on a cruise for 12 hours in Oct. There seems to be plenty to do in Incheon (open port, Wolmido etc). Do you think I would be better off staying there or trying to get to Seoul and back in this short time? It’s seems a bit further and harder than getting from Freo to perth.

    • Hi there.

      Seoul is a nice place, but unless you have something specific to do there, it’s just another generic modern Asian city. If you have plenty to do in Incheon, there’s probably no reason to go into Seoul for a few hours. I have rather different sightseeing priorities than most other people, and there are plenty of vantage points to photograph trains in the Seoul area, especially along the south east branch of subway line 1.

      You’re right, Incheon is to Seoul as Fremantle is to Perth, but it’s not difficult to get from Incheon into Seoul by subway. Realistically, you need to leave about 90 minutes in each direction. If your cruise ship uses the same terminal as the Weidong passenger ferries (to China), it is about a 20 minute walk from the ferry terminal to Dongincheon station. Dongincheon is on Subway line 1, which runs through the centre of Seoul. There are 2 services from Dongincheon to Seoul; an all stations service and the “Yongsan Rapid”; a limited stops service which runs between Dongincheon and Yongsan in central Seoul.

      Whatever you choose, I hope you enjoy your cruise!

  4. Re: the ferry terminal in Busan, Jungang is the closest stop (and signed as the stop for the ferry terminal) rather than Nampodong.

    Enjoying reading your blog! ^^

  5. Pingback: Ved Bucheon Station – Seoul Subway : SubwayNerd·

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