I’ve visited the DPRK more than 100 hundred times and I usually get asked by tourists do I get bored coming back? My answer is simply “not yet”. Every time I do return to North Korea I’m able to experience or witness something I haven’t yet done in the country which helps open my understanding of the locals and their culture.
The Pyongyang Metro is an item which I lead every tourist group around whilst visiting Pyongyang, the capital. The Pyongyang Metro is a living and breathing organism of the city and it’s incredibly vibrant, charming and it can even be sometimes intense at times during the peak hour.
So, what’s so special about it?
The Metro is the deepest in the world, buried 100 meters below the surface. It mostly operates on the west bank of Pyongyang with 17 stops on two lines. It was first opened in 1973 and the last additional stations to be added to line 1 was opened in 1987. Since then the metro has not changed although the North Koreans have built their own modern subway car that operates only on line 1. The other subway cars were imported from Berlin in the 1990’s adding a very simple yet effective appeal to it.
What makes this my absolute favourite attraction in the DPRK is the interaction my tourists and I are able to have with the locals on the platform or during the ride. I’ve met so many locals this way and it is by far the best chance for us to talk and a good way for the locals to kill time during their commute.
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The Pyongyang Metro gates where commuters touch on with their metro cards was updated last week with LCD screens displaying their info. Previously it was an LED counter showing how many rides they had left. To ride the Pyongyang metro costs 5 DPRK Won. #northkorea #korea #dprk #pyongyang #metro #youngpioneertours
The locals are a mix of workers, families, friends, students, military men & women and old folk. They usually tend to be a little shy at first seeing foreigners riding the metro but some are quick to open up to a fun discussion.
I’ve had conversations using English, Korean and even sometimes Chinese! It’s a quick glimpse we have into their daily lives and some locals are more open than others. “Why aren’t you married? You’re old!” said one older gentleman after being confused about my marital status. “Is everyone in Australia tall like you?” a university student would ask. “Do you have Pyongyang cold noodles in your country?” a middle-aged woman would enquire after we had a quick discussion about Korean food.
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A student on the Pyongyang metro playing Plants Vs. Zombies on his phone. In the DPRK the government copies the code of the game, removes the credits, adds in Korean menus and distributes it to phones by copying it from PCs. They also have Doodle Jump, Angry Birds, Wheres my Water?, and more. #northkorea #korea #dprk #pyongyang #metro #youngpioneertours
I tell my tourists ‘the metro is what you make of it’. It is indeed a great chance to snap up some incredible shots during your visit in North Korea but my advice for anyone who will be visiting Pyongyang is to put the camera away and wave to the wide-eyed folk, or even strike up a conversation with the students who were previously whispering about you. Engaging is the key. This is your chance.
Visitors to the DPRK often wonder whether the country’s capital, Pyongyang, is actually an elaborate set with thousands of actors walking the city’s tree-lined boulevards portraying civilians, police and school children. For many, it is difficult to accept Pyongyang’s role as a showcase for the image North Korea wishes to project, and some visitors subscribe to the more insidious theory that it is all an elaborate stage show being manipulated from behind-the-scenes.
Pyongyang‘s 16-stop, marble-lined metro system, with its elaborate mosaics and golden statues of Kim Il Sung, is often the center of such speculation. Some have claimed to have witnessed “actors” exiting the metro only to turn right back around and go for another ride. Others have insisted that since visitors often only see two or three stations, that the other stops listed on the metro’s official map actually do not exist.
In August, YPT’s North Korea Tour Manager Rowan Beard rode through the entire Pyongyang Metro system and captured the experience on camera. Is it real or fake? You decide!