The Pyongyang Metro (Chosŏn'gŭl: 평양 지하철; MR: P'yŏngyang Chihach'ŏl) is the metro system in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. It consists of two lines: the Chollima Line, which runs north from Puhŭng Station on the banks of the Taedong River to Pulgŭnbyŏl Station, and the Hyŏksin Line, which runs from Kwangbok Station in the southwest to Ragwŏn Station in the northeast. The two lines intersect at Chŏnu Station. Daily ridership is estimated to be between 300,000 and 700,000. Pyongyang Metro was built by North Korea, with rolling stock imported from Berlin, Germany, and some electronic devices imported from China.
The Pyongyang Metro has a museum devoted to its construction and history.
Construction of the metro network started in 1965, and stations were opened between 1969 and 1972 by former president Kim Il-sung. Most of the 16 public stations were built in the 1970s, except two most grandiose stations—Puhoong and Yonggwang, which were constructed in 1987. In 1971, there was a major accident during the construction of a tunnel under the Taedong River for the Ponghwa Station. Some sources say at least 100 workers died in the accident. This particular piece of tunnel was never completed; the metro network is now completely located on the western side of the river.
China claims to have provided technical aid for the metro's construction, sending experts to install the equipment made in China, including electrical equipment made in Xiangtan, Hunan and an escalator with vertical height of 64m made in Shanghai, but North Korea denies having gotten help from China.
Pyongyang Metro is among the deepest metros in the world, with the track at over 110 metres (360 ft) deep underground; the metro does not have any above-ground track segments or stations. Because of the depth of the metro and the lack of outside segments, it doubles as a bomb shelter, with blast doors in place at hallways. It takes three and a half minutes from the ground to the platform by escalator. The metro is so deep that the temperature of the platform maintains a constant 18 °C (64 °F) all year. The Saint Petersburg Metro also claims to be the deepest, based on the average depth of all its stations. The Arsenalna station on Kiev Metro's Sviatoshynsko-Brovarska Line is currently the deepest station in the world at 105.5 metres (346 ft). The Porta Alpina railway station in Switzerland was supposed to be 800 m underground, but the project was indefinitely shelved in 2012.
The Pyongyang Metro was designed to operate every few minutes. During rush hour, the trains can operate at a minimum interval of two minutes. The trains have the ability to play music and other recordings.
The Pyongyang Metro is one of the cheapest in the world to ride, at only five won (about 0.01 USD) per ticket. Instead of paper tickets, the Metro previously used an aluminium token, with the emblem of the Metro minted on it and the Korean "지". It now uses a paper ticket system, with 지 printed on it. Smoking and eating inside the Metro system is prohibited and is punishable by a large fine.
The Pyongyang Metro network consists of two lines:
- Chollima Line, named after a winged horse from ancient Korean mythology. It spans about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi). Construction started in 1968, and the line was opened on September 6, 1973. The Mangyongdae Line is part of the Chollima Line. The total route contains the Puhung, Yonggwang, Ponghwa, Sŭngni, Tongil, Kaeson, Jonu, and Pulgunbyol stations.
- Hyŏksin Line, which literally means renewal, spans about 10 kilometres (6.2 mi). Regular service started on October 9, 1975. The route contains the Kwangbok, Konguk, Hwanggumbol, Konsol, Hyoksin, Jonsung, Samhung, and Rakwon stations. The closed Kwangmyong station is located between the Samhung and Rakwon stations.
Unlike most systems, the majority of the stations' names do not refer to their respective locations; instead, stations are named after themes and characteristics from North Korea's revolution. However, Kaesŏn ("Triumph") is located at the Arch of Triumph.
The network is completely underground. The design of the network was based on metro networks in other communist countries, in particular the Moscow Metro. Both networks share many characteristics, such as the great depth of the lines (100 meters plus) and the large distance between stations. Another common feature is the Socialist realist art that can be found in the stations such as murals and statues. Staff of the Metro have a military-style uniform that is specific to these workers. Each Metro station has a free toilet for use by patrons. Stations also play state radio broadcasts and have a display of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
In times of war, the metro stations can serve as bomb shelters. For this purpose, the stations are fitted with large steel doors. Some sources claim that large military installations are connected to the stations, and also that there exist secret lines solely for government use.
One station — Kwangmyŏng — is reported to be closed since 1995, due to the mausoleum of Kim Il-Sung being located at that station. Trains do not stop at that station.
The map of the Hyŏksin line shows two additional stations after Kwangbok: Yŏngung (영웅) and Ch'ilgok (칠곡), both of which are reportedly under development. The map of the Chollima Line, on the other hand, shows four additional stations, two at each end of the line—Ryŏnmot (련못), Sŏp'o (서포), Ch'ŏngch'un (청춘) and Mangyŏngdae (만경대)—which are planned or under development.
In addition to the main system for passenger use, there is reportedly an extra system for government use, similar to Moscow's Metro-2. The secret Pyongyang system supposedly connects important government locations. There is also reportedly a massive underground plaza for mobilization, as well as an underground road connecting two metro stations.
When operation of the metro started in the 1970s, newly built cars were used. Although China claims 4 trainsets were built by China, the claim was refuted by North Korea, saying that the trainsets were imported from Berlin and that the rest were manufactured domestically. China claims the China-made rolling stocks were later sold back to China for use on the Beijing Subway, where they served in three car formations on line 13 (they have since been replaced by newer DKZ5 and DKZ6 trainsets; it is unknown if the DK4 units have been returned to Pyongyang).
Since 1998, the Pyongyang Metro has used former German rolling stock from the Berlin U-Bahn. The North Korean government supposedly bought more than twice the number of trainsets required for daily use, prompting speculation that the metro might contain hidden lines and/or stations that are not open to the public. There are two different types of rolling stock:
- GI ("Gisela"), former East Berlin stock, built between 1978 and 1982.
- D ("Dora"), former West Berlin stock, built between 1957 and 1965.
The trainsets received a new red and cream livery in Pyongyang. All advertising was removed and replaced by portraits of the deceased leaders, Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il. A BBC reporter in 2000 reported seeing "old East German trains complete with their original German graffiti." Since at least 2006, travelers have mainly seen type D. The type GI trains were withdrawn from metro service in 2001, and are now operating on the railway network around Pyongyang.
In 2015, Kim Jong-un rode a newly manufactured train which is reported to have been developed and built in North Korea, although the cars appear to be significantly renovated Class D cars. The shunting locomotive served in Pyongyang Metro is GKD5 model manufactured by China's CNR Dalian. There are two locomotives imported from China in early 1996.
In general, tourism in North Korea is allowed only in guided groups with no diversion allowed from pre-planned itineraries. Foreign tourists used to be allowed to travel only between Puhŭng Station and Yŏnggwang Station. However, foreign students were allowed to freely use the entire metro system. Since 2010 tourists have been allowed to ride the metro at six stations. University students traveling with the Pyongyang Project have also reported visiting every station. As of 2014[update], it is possible for tourists on special Public Transport Tours to take metro rides through both lines, including visits to all stations. In April 2014, the first tourist group visited stations on both metro lines, and it is expected that such extended visits to both metro lines will remain possible for future tourist groups.
The previously limited tourist access gave rise to a conspiracy theory that the metro was purely for show. It was claimed that it only consisted of two stops and that the passengers were actors.
Pyongyang Metro has its own museum. A large portion of the collection is related to President Kim Il-sung's providing "on-the-spot guidance" to the workers constructing the system. Among the exhibits are a special funicular-like vehicle which the president used to descend to a station under construction (it rode down the inclined tunnels that would eventually be used by the escalators), and a railbus in which he rode around the system.
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