Sunday, December 30, 2012

Reading the Subway Display or How to Not Get on the Wrong Train

So, I've been surprised to learn recently from some people I know here in Korea that they didn't know you can tell which train is coming at the subway stop by looking at the display screen.

First off, here's a link to an interactive subway map. And here's a link to a blog I posted previously with general subway information.

If you can't read Korean, I would definitely recommend learning enough to be able to read, or at least recognize, stop names on subway displays. "Why?" you may be asking. Well, here's why: some subway lines split and sometimes trains won't be going to the end of the subway line. Here's the best example of this: Line 1, the dark blue line.
Just waiting to take you to the wrong place

Let's say in this example that you are in Yongsan shopping for some cheap electronics (green circle) and now you want to go meet your military friend in Osan (red circle) to get some foreign goods from the Air Force base there. However, if you're not paying attention, you could end up in any number of places that aren't Osan. The 3 places that I've circled in yellow are where Line 1 splits. You need to be able to recognize a destination on the display that will get you on the right train going to your destination.

So, here is the display that you will see in the subway stations that have trains stopping that may be going to a variety of final stops.
You are so screwed if you can't read me, bwahaha!

The orange column (number 1) tells you the last stop of the train; the green column (number 2) tells you the current location of that train; the red column (number 3) just tells you the train's motion status. This is the display in Jeongja Station on the Bundang line. As you know, I live in Yeongtong: specifically, at the Cheongmyung Station stop. If I'm coming home from Seoul, I need to make sure I get on the right train to get home so I'm not waiting in the cold for 15 minutes for the right train after I have to get off at the last stop, which happened earlier this weekend when I wasn't paying attention. For reference, here's the part of the Bundang line being referred to in this sign.
Yay! The subway is open!

So, the top row is the train that is going to be at the station next. The last stop for it is Jukjeon (죽전 - you can ignore the "행": it just means "line"), and it is currently approaching (접근) Seohyeon (서현). Since the last stop for this train is Jukjeon and I want to go to Cheongmyung, I don't want to take this train. The second train (row 2) is going to Mangpo (망포), and it is currently at (도착)- or arriving at - Taepyeong (태평). Since Mangpo is past where I want to go, this is the train I'll wait for and take. The third train is also stopping its run at Jukjeon (죽전), and it is currently departing from (출발) Suseo (수서).

So, that's how you read the display and can tell if you're getting on the right train. If nothing else, being able to read the stop names in the subway should be good motivation to at least learn to read Hangul.

Happy subway riding and Happy New Year!!


  1. One of my friends tried to post a comment about a subway app for Android that you can download, but the Captcha wasn't playing nice. Anyway, the app is called "Jihachul". It looks pretty handy and is available for iOS devices, too. Thanks for the tip, Niri!

  2. I second the Jihachul app recomendation - I'd be so lost without it.

    A small note - a better translation of the 'heng' word is 'bound for' so that train is 'bound for' Mangpo. You see this on buses from time to time on the ones that have convoluted routes that split off. You can also use the word 'heng' in a sentence asking bus drivers 'Ajou Dae heng issumnika?' Is this bus bound for Ajou University? The Issumnika bit is probably incorrect but the bus driver got my gist at any rate.