Seoul’s Line 9 A “War Zone” During Rush Hours

Video and text from JTBC:

Subway line 9 is an everyday war zone. A reporter takes a ride.


These days, everyone knows someone who takes Seoul subway’s line 9 to and from work. This line 9 during rush hours is no other the infamous “hell train.” This is due to times between trains having been increased ahead of the opening of more stations on the line.

To see exactly how bad it is, and why it is like this Reporter Kim Gwan is at the scene for a closer look.


I have come to Gaehwa Station on line 9. The time is currently 7 a.m.

Line 9, connecting Seoul’s Gangseo district to Gangnam, becomes a “hell train” for passengers every morning. Inside the train, each day begins with a fight.

How bad could it be? I will attempt to board a train with other riders.

A short time after the train leaves, a crowd begins to form.

Riders are pressed for time on their way to work. When the doors open, I will first attempt to get inside.

Boarding the train isn’t easy, but exiting a train can also be a formidable task.

“This is my stop. I need to get off the train.”

Riders sway along with the movements of the train.

I’m not sure where we are.

Among all the stops on Line 9, the busiest section is between Yeomchang Station and Dangsan Station. Here at Yeomchang Station an announcement says the express train is arriving.

All of these riders will want to get on this train, so I will also see if I will be able to board the train with them.

This attempt to get on the first train is not going so well. So it seems I will have to let the first train go, and wait for more than two trains to pass before being able to successfully board the express train.

Riders are militant about efforts to board a train.

There are many postings titled “If we keep up like this someone is going to die,” and actually right now all at once many people are getting on the express train that just arrived.

It’s common for people trying to get on the train to get in scuffles with employees whose job it is to manage riders.

[Employee:]”Please get behind the yellow line.
[Rider:] “How about here? If I’m here? Why do you keep saying I have to move back?”
[Employee:] “Behind you there is a safety line.”
[Rider:] “What are you, a cat pretending to care about a mouse?”

[Reporter]: “Just now you couldn’t get on the train. Is this normal?”
[Lee Hyun-seung, a Line 9 passenger:] “Does today seem extraordinary to you? It’s a war zone like this every day.”

Us reporters also try and fail a few times before being able to get on a train.

When I managed to get on a train, it was a narrow success.

Yet even being inside is a problem.

Like being plastered to a wall, being on a train with so many people makes it difficult to move.

And of course there are some desperate people.

[Reporter:] “It won’t be easy to get off this train, right?”
[Choi Seon-gun, passenger on Line 9:] “When it’s time to get off the train, it happens automatically. Look at what happens this time. People get pushed out. It’s like that when boarding the train too. If you are in the spot when trying to get on, you’ll get pushed on without trying. Ah, it’s a war zone. Every day it’s a war.”

It is to the point that once a man in the crowded subway car had difficulty breathing and fainted.

Even with some help he could not stand up, so he ended up being taken to the hospital.

Map showing the stations on line 9.  It starts at the eastern edge of Seoul in Gaehwa, and ends in Sinnonhyun, which is in Gangnam.  The extension is also shown in red dots.  It will open partially in March, 2015.

Map showing the stations on line 9. It starts at the eastern edge of Seoul in Gaehwa, and ends in Sinnonhyun, which is in Gangnam. The extension is also shown in red dots. It will open partially in March, 2015.

The state of Line 9, even with too few trains running, is due to plans to open new stations to extend the line.

Trial runs have begun in Seoul since last week, ahead of the planned opening of the extension next month.

Due to this, the time between trains has increased. 1-2 minutes has been added to intervals between trains at each station.

[Lee Won-mok, Head of Transportation Policy of Seoul City government:] “We have prepared new bus lines that can serve as substitutes, and plans are in the works to create a more equal distribution of passengers and better train interval times during the hectic hours of the morning rush hour.

Despite this, in order to achieve the basic policy of more trains, it will take two or more years between commissioning them and getting funding.

The new terminal station for line 9 will be Jamsil Sports Complex Station.

It seems this train platform in a month’s time will also be overflowing with passengers.

However, without adding more trains, and the line extension on its way to being open, many are pointing fingers saying a “hell train” like the one we saw this morning will be the norm.

Comments from Naver:


Korean snack companies… follow line 9’s example.


I really get this keke If you get a spot, you just go on automatic and ride, ride, then when you need to you just automatically get off.


That moment when I want to get on the train but when there are so many people that the whole car is full, and I get inside and then I’m all self-conscious kekeke


If you ride the express train going to Sinnonhyun Station it makes the ride from Sindorim to Sadang seem like a joke. ㅠㅠ


In the train when everyone is pushing each other, if I brush up against someone, those bitches that death stare at me. Don’t be like that, I hate it too.


As long as they really don’t run more trains.. there is no answer… Why are there only 4-car trains it’s not a play train for kids!


Everyone uses line 2, line 4, and line 5 to go to work, and line 9 to go to school. Between the hours of 7 and 9, they all say that line 2 is the worst, but really the worst is line 9. People are packed into line 9 like sardines until they get crushed into fish paste.* kekekekeke If you ride it you’d understand.
[*Literal translation: “People are like bean sprouts stuffed in a jar until they turn to bean powder.”]


That older guy goes too far… You have to stay behind the line for your safety… It doesn’t even make sense to say “Suddenly the cat pretends to care about a mouse?” … Rush hour is hard everywhere, but that guy is complaining like he’s the only one suffering. So if he’s going on like that and then there’s an accident I bet he’ll be going around screaming, blaming Metro for it.


I can’t understand why they can’t add more cars to the trains. There’s only 4-car trains. Even the Su-in Line where there aren’t many riders there are still 6-car trains. Shouldn’t 6 cars be the minimum?


The JTBC reporter’s clothes looked like CNN or BBC. It’s nice to see. On other broadcasts, the reporter wears a suit and has to hold a mic in their hand. It’s time we get rid of the dress code.


Even in the winter Line 9 doesn’t need to have the heat on.


You guys try riding it. You can’t really understand it just by reading about it. It’s really a hell train. There is an excessive amount of people on Line 9.


I saw some grandpa standing behind a woman and fucking rubbing against her. Fucking sick bastard.


In the summer on a humid day when there’s so many people like that, the smells make me want to puke…


Those people who get a seat during rush hour should play the Lotto.


Riding during rush hour every day is like I’m unintentionally getting caught up in some huge wave and then being pushed around.


Line 9 has all the pretty ladies so that’s lucky for you. Try riding Line 1 with all the homeless old guys.


Wow… It’s like “New World”. It’s so scary.. ㅠㅠ It’s a hell train just like they say [in the movie]… “Come on in.”


Yet, line 9 is in a deficit. How interesting!

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  • k.ftw

    With the super aircon that these trains have, it’s just a game.

  • AsKorean1

    South Korea should have a monorail system instead subway. Sick and tired of Korean Subway. Bad air, Dirty, Stairs, Transit, Market atmosphere, crazy people.

    • milo

      As far as subways go, Seoul’s is pretty much the best. I gets busy of course, but never that bad. I found Tokyo’s rush hour way,way more packed. It’s clean, relatively spacious and modern. And cheap.
      A monorail isn’t really viable on a large scale in a city of Seoul’s size. I guess they could have a centralised one that cut across some area of the city, but then you are just putting all your problems above ground.

    • death_by_ivory

      Have you ever been to NY subway?No air conditioning on the platforms so in the summer it is over a 100 degrees.Almost always have to move between carts because of the homeless smell so bad.Expensive and the price is rising more.Wifi? Maybe in 5 stations and no rails to guard so some crazy dude can push innocents to the tracks.I never been to Seoul but it cannot be this bad.

  • Yaminah Jamison

    I saw a Japanese train in which they had to push people in….. So I’m not too surprised by this, actually. What would bother me about a train like that is just the ignorant people who don’t cooperate and think they really are the only bothered people. Ugh..

    • Chucky3176

      It’s not usually like that. It’s only certain lines during rush hours, and there are about 18 to 20 lines, and about 700 stations. It’s a huge maze of lines that goes everywhere like a spider web.

      • Yaminah Jamison

        Yeah I know it’s only rush hour times. I’ve been on rush hour trains, though luckily not that bad. But just in general, other people piss me off because they just become douches… Like Black Friday shoppers or something.

  • bumfromkorea

    [Insert clueless comment about how this is all because of Korean culture of [insert more clueless bullshit].]

    • no

      just because you say its bullshit doesn’t make it so. fuck korea

    • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

      [insert bullshit retort][insert mandatory ‘fuck korea’ here]

    • elizabeth

      Criticism is the only reliable form of autobiography
      – Oscar Wilde

      If you look up the psychology of criticism, you will find that criticism is sometimes (or often?) not about the one being criticized and therefore not worth fretting over.

      • vita

        oscar wilde did not live in the times of the internet. most of the “criticism” on here are people just trying to troll

  • hello123

    i’m so glad i have rich parents and don’t have to take the subway. peasants stay away from me.

  • stickerbrick

    I used to get to work over an hour and a half early just so i could avoid riding the Seoul subway during rush hour.

    • David

      Well, that made you look like an excellent employee.

    • elizabeth

      Kudos to you. Just wondering though, if it is possible to take alternative routes/lines to work since Seoul’s subway is so interconnected with many interchanges.

      • chucky3176

        You can. But going around the problem may end up taking more time than it is worth.

  • Jahar

    looks like a normal weekend here in Wuhan, China.

  • Smith_90125

    Meh. I remember line 2 being much worse, especially in the evenings and on weekends.

  • this is so terrible man it’s not even funny.
    governments need to sort this sh* out with early hour rush, it’s happening all over the world now!

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