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Saturday, 24 February 2007

The Korean rat race: subway transfers

If you read my post about working hours in Korea, then you'll be excited to watch the following video. I have never taken the subway at 8:10am in the morning on a weekday before, let alone on a Friday. I am used to dealing with lots of people on the subway. Usually they are pretty busy at peak times. However, I have NEVER experienced anything like this before! Note to self, do not take the subway in the morning during the week!

This video is me getting off Line 5 (the purple line) at Yeungdeungpo-gu Office (the home of Costco) and transferring to Line 2 (the green line, one of the busiest lines). Keep an eye out on all the people marching up the stairs. My camera ran out of batteries after this clip so I was unable to film myself barging into a jam-packed subway car on Line 2.

Line 2 was even worse than Line 5. I managed to follow the crowds of people and pry my way into a full subway car. Some people were turned away because the cars were too full. Once I was standing in the subway car, I couldn't even turn around. It took me awhile to get away from the door (the worst possible spot) and grab onto a hanging handle. While all of this is going on, I am sweating profusely because a) I have my down-filled North Face jacket on and b) there are at least 200-300 people in this car, breathing at the same time with NO ventilation. Dirty and stinky air, anyone?

In the morning, there are free dailies given out so you see everyone reading them. They are also scattered all over the floors of the subway cars:

Okay, so I managed to have enough battery in my camera to take one last picture. This was the moment after stepping into the subway car at Yeungdeungpo-gu, Line 2 (green line). This man was nice enough to let me rest my arm on his upper back (I didn't ask, I just did it; he didn't seem to mind). With the car being so jam-packed, I was able to just freely lean back on the poor souls behind me--it was quite relaxing, even better than standing!

The trip to Seolleung was about 45 minutes away. People were pushing and shoving. One lady let out a yelp after some people forced themselves into an already packed car, shoving her in the process; another guy beside me had the most miserable face--he was hunched together with his free daily clutched to his chest, unable to move, almost in a vertical fetal position of some sort. I ended up standing the entire time, clutching onto the handle above me. It was like a war zone. Luckly I had my iPod to keep me occupied (although watching people push and shove is equally entertaining) for my long trip. At one point in time, someone had their hands or arms against my butt--I felt extremely violated. That's it, I'm taping tacks to my butt next time.

My tips for taking the subway during the peak times (use at your own risk):
  1. Be aggressive and try to get yourself into the subway car. Don't push anyone, just try to dodge your way through. If you someone shoves you, spread the love and shove someone back (don't listen to my advice)!
  2. Once in the car, get away from the doors. It is the worst possible place to stand. People with push and shove you to enter and leave the car. Wiggle your way to the side if possible.
  3. Want to sit down? Fat chance! However, if you are determined, strategically place yourself over a couple seats and mark your territory. Keep a sharp eye out when your subway car reaches any major station or transfer. You'll have the greatest chances of someone getting up and leaving--that's when you pounce on the free seat like a lion chasing a gazelle.


lowlight said...

I've ran into rush hour in Hong Kong as well.. When that happens, I just take the taxi home. I don't have the patience to deal with being crammed on a subway for 45 minutes.

But usually I just time my travel better :)

Gary said...

Yeah, tell me about it. I was going to take the bus, but it was gonna be difficult not knowing where I was going. I had heading to do some "online lessons" for school at the headquarters away from Seoul.

Normally we walk 10 minutes to work. I love cabs in Seoul...they are super cheap and start at $2!

Jon Allen said...

I think the tube in london is much worse than the subway here.

Imagine a tube train a fraction the size of the subway cars here, and just as many people. You really do get packed in so tight you could take your feet off the floor and still be stood up due to the crush of people.

Great video, I love the commentary!

Gary said...

I have experienced the subways in Hong Kong and Seoul so far. One day I will visit London to check out the tube there.

I think the lesson here is to avoid the subway at peak times. I'll have to do this at least three more times believe it or not!!!

Phoenixstorm said...

Thats so crazy! There is nothing like that in Milwaukee at all. Chicago is close and has trains, but not on that level. I lived in London for awhile and I really loved the trains there, packed like it seems in Seoul, but I didn't have to fight a language barrier (though sometimes it felt like I did when facing a heavy accent).

I hope my school is close enough to where I will be living that I can walk to it.

annamatic said...

thanks for the video, it gave me a little dose of Korea as I've been away for a couple of weeks. Seoul's Metro is a dream compared to NY's! Imagine the an even more packed crowd, in half the space, in a system built at the turn of the 20th century, but then factor in unidentifiable smells, filthyness, aggressive panhandlers, unexplained delays...

Anonymous said...

Line 5 isn't as crowded as line 2, generally. I challenge you to transfer in morning rush hour from line 4 to line 2 at Dongdaemun Stadium! I used to do this everyday for a time. You do get used to the crowdedness, and I positively thrived on it! (By the way, in spite of the crowdedness here, the most crowded trains I've ever seen were on the Paris Metro.)

Anyway, about pushing, I'm loathe to say it, but in the real peak hours one almost must push in order to board the train.

Great post!

Gary said...

Yeah, Line 5 is not as bad as Line 2. But at peak times, it's just nuts. I guess experiencing this will just make other metros seem either worse or pale in comparison!

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