Pyongyang Metro

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Pyongyang Metro
A blue circle with red lettering inside it; underneiht the circle is a red V
Native name 평양 지하철
P'yŏngyang Chihach'ŏl
Locale  North Korea, Pyongyang
Transit type Rapid transit
Number of lines 2
Line number Chollima
Number of stations 16
Daily ridership 98,600 (2009)[1]
Headquarters Pyongyang Metro
City Metro Unit
Railway Section
Transport and Communication Commission
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Website (Unofficial)
Began operation September 9, 1973; 42 years ago (1973-09-09)
Operator(s) Transport and Communication Commission
Character Underground railway
Number of vehicles 453[2]
System length 22.5 km (14.0 mi)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Top speed 90 km/h (56 mph) (Changchun Type DK4)
70 km/h (43 mph) (Berlin Type D)
System map

Pyongyang metro 20070321.png

Pyongyang Metro
Revised Romanization

Pyeongyang Jihacheo

McCune–Reischauer P'yŏngyang Chihach'ŏl
Puhŭng station platforms
Puhŭng station
Puhŭng station
Puhŭng station
Kaeson station platforms
Kaeson station
Yonggwang station entrance
Yonggwang station
Yonggwang station
Yonggwang station

The Pyongyang Metro (Korean: 평양 지하철 P'yŏngyang Chihach'ŏl) is the metro system in the North Korean capital Pyongyang. It consists of two lines: the Chŏllima line (Korean: 천리마선), which runs north from Puhŭng (Korean: 부흥) station on the banks of the Taedong to Pulgŭnbyŏl (Korean: 붉은별) station, and the Hyŏksin line (Korean: 혁신선), which runs from Kwangbok (Korean: 광복) station in the southwest to Ragwŏn (Korean: 락원) station in the northeast. The two lines intersect at Chŏnu (Korean: 전우) station. Daily ridership is estimated to be between 300,000 and 700,000.[3][4]


Construction of the metro network started in 1965, and stations were opened between 1969 and 1972 by former President Kim Il-sung.[2][5] In 1971, there was a major accident during the construction of a tunnel under the Taedong River for the Ponghwa (Korean: 봉화) station. Some sources say at least 100 workers died in the accident.[6] This particular piece of tunnel was never completed; the metro network is now completely located on the western side of the river.

Pyongyang Metro is one of the deepest metros in the world, with the track supposedly approximately 110 metres (360 ft) deep underground; this may be because of the fact that the Pyongyang metro also doubles as a bomb shelter.[7] (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.)[8] The Porta Alpina railway station in Switzerland was supposed to be 800m underground, but the project was indefinitely shelved in 2012.[9]) The Pyongyang Metro has a museum devoted to its construction and history.


Route diagram
      Chŏllima line 
Chŏnu(     Chŏnsŭng)
      Hyŏksin line 
Chŏnsŭng(     Chŏnu)

The Pyongyang Metro network consists of two lines:

  • Ch'ŏllima line, named after a winged horse from ancient Korean mythology. It spans about 12 km (~8 mi). Construction started in 1968, and the line was opened on September 6, 1973.
  • Hyŏksin line, which literally means renewal, spans about 10 km (~6 mi). Regular service started on October 9, 1975.

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.[10] 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.[11] Staff of the Metro have a military-style uniform that is specific to these workers.

In times of war, the metro stations can serve as bomb shelters.[12] For this purpose, the stations are fitted with large steel doors.[13] Some sources claim that large military installations are connected to the stations,[14] and also that there exist secret lines solely for government use.[3][15]

One station—Kwangmyŏng (Korean: 광명)—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 Hyŏksin line is reported to have two new stations planned or under development, Yŏngung (Korean: 영웅) and Ch'ilgok (Korean: 칠곡). The map of the Hyŏksin line shows these two additional stations after Kwangbok station.

The map of the Chŏllima line shows two additional stations, Ryŏnmot (Korean: 련못), Sŏp'o (Korean: 서포), Ch'ŏngch'un (Korean: 청춘) and Mangyŏngdae (Korean: 만경대), at each end of this line which are planned or under development.

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.


Chŏllima Line[edit]

Hyŏksin Line[edit]

Man'gyŏngdae Line[edit]


The Pyongyang Metro was designed to operate every few minutes. During rush hour, the trains can operate at a minimum interval of 2 minutes. The trains have the ability to play music and other recordings.[16]

The Pyongyang Metro is one of the cheapest in the world to ride, at only 5 KP₩ (about $0.01 USD) per ticket.[17] Instead of paper tickets, the Metro used to use an aluminium token, with the emblem of the Metro minted on it and the Korean "". It now uses a paper ticket system, with printed on it. Smoking and eating inside the Metro system is prohibited and is punishable by a large fine.


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 Yŏngwang Station.[18] However, foreign students were allowed to freely use the entire metro system.[19] Since 2010 tourists have been allowed to ride the metro at six stations.[20] University students traveling with the Pyongyang Project have also reported visiting six stations.[21] As of 2014, it is possible for tourists on special Public Transport Tours to take metro rides through both lines, including visits to all stations.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24][25][26]

Rolling stock[edit]

When operation of the metro started in the 1970s, newly built rolling stock was used. Although North Korea insists it was built in Korea, the four-car formations, known as DK4, were built in China by Changchun Car Company in 1972. All together 345 vehicles were built, of the whole, only 112 cars were actually used. In 1998, some of these trainsets were sold to 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. 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 Pyŏngyang. 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."[27]

Recent travellers have mainly seen type D.[28]


The descent to the deep Pyongyang Metro at Puhŭng station on the Chŏllima line.
North Korean people riding the Pyongyang Metro in 2012. The portraits above the door are of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
VOA report showing a ride on the former West German U-Bahn cars in 2013.

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.[29]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Michael Rohde. "Pyongyang". 
  2. ^ a b "The Pyongyang Metro: Trains". 
  3. ^ a b Harris, Mark Edward; Cumings, Bruce (2007). Inside North Korea. Chronicle Books. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-8118-5751-2. 
  4. ^ "CNN Special Investigations Unit: Notes from North Korea". CNN. May 11, 2008. 
  5. ^ "철도동호회 - 조선국 평양지하철도 - Daum 카페". 철도동호회 - Daum 카페. 
  6. ^ "Станция "ПОНГВА" - "Путеводный Огонь"". 
  7. ^ 平壤的表情:你不知道的朝鲜 (in Chinese). Netease. July 31, 2007. 
  8. ^ Официальный сайт киевского метрополитена. Kiev Metro.
  9. ^ "World's Longest Tunnel Drilled Under Swiss Alps". DNews. 
  10. ^ Korea: North-South nuclear issues : hearing before the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Relations, House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, second session, July 25, 1990. U.S. G.P.O. 1991. p. 85. 
  11. ^ Ishikawa, Shō (1988). The country aglow with Juche: North Korea as seen by a journalist. Foreign languages Pub. House. p. 65. 
  12. ^ Robinson, Martin; Bartlett, Ray; Whyte Rob (2007). Korea. Lonely Planet. p. 364. ISBN 978-1-74104-558-1. 
  13. ^ Springer, Chris (2003). Pyongyang: the hidden history of the North Korean capital. Entente Bt. p. 125. ISBN 978-963-00-8104-7. 
  14. ^ Min, Park Hyun (August 20, 2007). "Pyongyang Subway Submerged in Water". Daily NK. 
  15. ^ "Kim Jong-il 'Has Secret Underground Escape Route'". The Chosun Ilbo. March 1, 2011. 
  16. ^ One minute riding the Pyongyang metro to the tune of Rossini's "il barbiere di siviglia". YouTube. 25 April 2014. 
  17. ^ Hooi, Ng Si (September 6, 2008). "A world of its own". The Star (Malaysia). 
  18. ^ Burdick, Eddie (2010). Three Days in the Hermit Kingdom: An American Visits North Korea. McFarland. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-7864-4898-2. 
  19. ^ Abt, Felix (2014). A Capitalist in North Korea: My Seven Years in the Hermit Kingdom. Tuttle Publishing. p. 226. ISBN 9780804844390. 
  20. ^ "North Korea". 
  21. ^ Pyongyang metro - 6 stops visited in April 2014. YouTube. 25 April 2014. 
  22. ^ Pyongyang Travel. "Public Transport Tours - Information Page". 
  23. ^ "Tourists granted rare access to nearly all stations on Pyongyang metro network". 
  24. ^ Kate Whitehead (13 September 2013). "Touring North Korea: What’s real, what’s fake?". CNN. 
  25. ^ Hamish Macdonald (2 May 2014). "Tourists granted rare access to nearly all stations on Pyongyang metro network". NK News. 
  26. ^ Maeve Shearlaw (13 May 2014). "Mythbusters: uncovering the truth about North Korea". The Guardian. 
  27. ^ Lister, Richard (October 8, 2000). "Life in Pyongyang". BBC News. 
  28. ^ "Metro News". 2006. 
  29. ^ "The forbidden railway: Vienna - Pyongyang 윈 - 모스크바 - 두만강 - 평양". 


  • Pyongyang Metro, Pyongyang: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1980
  • Пхеньянский метрополитен. Путеводитель. — КНДР: Издательство «Корея», 1988.

External links[edit]