Touring the Pyongyang Metro
Without doubt one of the worlds most unique & beautiful subway systems, the entire Pyongyang metro only opened up to foreigners visitors a few years ago.
Before 2014 only the two most grandiose stations were shown to tourists which lead to rumours of how the Pyongyang metro was fake and the passengers were actors.
Since then we’ve taken the metro dozens of times and have seen every station. We can report that it is most certainly real and architecturally stunning.
Pyongyang Metro Lines
The system consists of two lines numbering 16 stations. The Chollima Line & Hyoksin Line which intersect at Jonu Station. The lines lie entirely in west Pyongyang. There were plans to burrow under the Taedong River and connect east Pyongyang but a major accident in the 1970s led to the abandonment of this project.
Daily ridership is estimated in the hundreds of thousands and it is one of the deepest metro systems in the world at 110 meters below the street. It is so deep that it doubles as a bomb shelter, blast doors are at the entrance to all stations.
It is also one of the most opulent subways in the world and is modelled on the Moscow metro. Two stations in particular stand out – the Puhŭng and Yŏnggwang stations which were constructed relatively later in 1987.
The entire system runs underground unlike many other metro systems in the world. For this reason it maintains a constant track temperature of 18 °C regardless of the season.
Also unlike many other countries, the stations are not named after streets, areas or famous people. They are named after themes from North Korea’s revolution so you’ll find names such as “Glory”, “Victory” and “Reunification” stations.
A Quick History
The Pyongyang metro began operations on September 9th, 1973.
Originally the trains were made in China but sold back to Beijing in the mid 1990s. Since 1997 Pyongyang has used German rolling stock from the Berlin U-Bahn. These trains had been used in both East and West Berlin throughout the 1980s.
They were painted in their distinct cream and red livery on arrival in North Korea and had graffiti and advertising removed (some German grafitti still remains). Portraits of leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were added in every carriage.
In 2015 the first new North Korean made train was introduced. It’s still in operation today.
In 2019, Kaeson and Tongil Stations were renovated, adding LCD TVs showing the next arrival and local news. A modern, brighter ceiling & platform were also installed. This was followed by Jonu and Chonsung stations in 2020.
At only 5 North Korea won (half a cent), the metro is officially the cheapest to ride in the world. Tickets are issued in paper form and are collected by an attendant at the gate.