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Transportation in South Korea

Table of contents
1 Railways
2 Subways
3 Streetcars
4 Buses
5 Highways
6 Waterways
7 Air Travel
8 Pipelines


total: 6,240 km
standard gauge: 6,240 km 1.435-m gauge (525 km electrified) (1998 est.)

Railways are one of the primary means by which South Koreans travel over long distances within the country. The Korean National Railroad (Hanguk Cheoldo (한국 철도) or Gukcheol (국철) in Korean; KNR for short) (English Site) (Korean Site) is the sole passenger railway operator.

Major Railway Lines

The principal railway line is the Gyeongbu Line (경부선), which connects the capital and largest city (Seoul) with the country's second largest city and largest seaport (Busan). Here is a table of major railway lines in South Korea:

LineName in HangeulMajor Stations Served
Gyeongbu Line경부선Seoul, Suweon, Daejeon, Daegu (Dongdaegu), Busan
Gyeongin Line경인선Seoul (Guro), Incheon
Gyeongui Line경의선Seoul, Dorasan
Gyeongwon Line경원선Seoul (Yongsan, Cheongnyangni), Euijeongbu, Shintanni
Gyeongchun Line경춘선Seoul (Cheongnyangni), Chuncheon
Janghang Line장항선Cheonan, Janghang
Chungbuk Line충북선Jochiweon, Cheongju, Chungju, Jecheon (Bongyang)
Honam Line호남선Daejeon, Iksan, Gwangju (Songjeongni), Mokpo
Jeolla Line전라선Iksan, Jeonju, Suncheon, Yeosu
Gyeongbuk Line경북선Gimcheon, Yeongju
Jungang Line중앙선Seoul (Cheongnyangni), Weonju, Jecheon, Yeongju, Andong, Gyeongju
Yeongdong Line영동선Yeongju, Donghae, Gangneung
Taebaek Line태백선Jecheon, Taebaek
Donghae Nambu Line동해 남부선Busan, Ulsan, Gyeongju, Pohang
Gyeongjeon Line경전선Samnangjin, Masan, Jinju, Suncheon, Gwangju (Songjeongni)

For former or proposed railway lines, see also the articles on the Gimpo Line, Suin Line, Kŭmgang-san Line, and Donghae Bukbu Line. There is no railway service on Jeju Island.

Classes of Service

Frequent service is provided on most routes, with trains every 15-60 minutes connecting Seoul to all major South Korean cities. Three classes of train operate, including the Saemaeul (새마을호, "New Village") service, which is the fastest, makes the fewest stops, and is the most expensive; \Mugunghwa (무궁화호, "Rose of Sharon") service, which is the most popular, stops at most but not all stations, and offers a mixture of reserved and unreserved seating; and Tongil (토일호, "Unification") service, which is the slowest and cheapeast of the three, stops at all stops, and offers no reserved seating.

Special Trains

The KNR operates a weekly steam excursion train on Sundays between Seoul and Euijeongbu via the Gyooe (pronounced "Gyo-way") Line. A handful of sleeper trains provide overnight sleeping car service between Seoul and the cities of Busan, Mokpo, and Yeosu. A private narrow-gauge railway (the Suin Line) used to operate between Suwon and Incheon, but it was abandoned in the 1990s.

High-Speed Service

A high-speed rail line is currently under construction between Seoul and Busan via Suweon, Daejeon, and Daegu. The railway uses French TGV technology. Service between Seoul and Daegu is scheduled to start in April 2004, with the full track to Busan planned for 2010.

Services to North Korea

Until the
division of Korea following the end of the Second World War, the Gyeongui Line and Gyeongwon Line extended into what is now North Korea. The Gyeongui Line connected Seoul to Kaesŏng, P'yŏngyang, and Shinŭiju on the Chinese border, while the Gyeongwon Line served Wŏnsan on the east coast. Another line--the Kŭmgang-san Line--connected the Southern city of Cheorwon on the Gyeongwon Line to Mt. Kŭmgang in the North. The Gyeongui Line is one of two lines whose south and north halves are now being reconnected, the other line being the Donghae Bukbu Line.


Cities with underground railway systems (Subway): Subway service in Seoul is provided by three separate operators: the Korean National Railroad, which operates Line 1, parts of Lines 3 and 4, and the Bundang Line; and two subway companies. Until roughly 1970, mass transit in Seoul was provided by streetcars. The early subway lines replaced the streetcar system and expanded upon it. Thus, Line 1 of the Subway follows the old streetcar route along Jongno between Seoul Station, Namdaemun, and Cheongnyangni, while Line 2 follows the old route along Euljiro out to Dongdaemun.


Streetcars operated in Seoul from the turn of the 20th century until roughly 1970. The network covered the whole downtown area (Junggu and Jongnogu) as well as surrounding neighbourhoods, including Cheongnyangni in the east, Mapogu in the west, and Noryangjin across the Han River to the south. The network was largely replaced by the subway system whose construction began in the early 1970s. Lines 1 and 2 follow the old streetcar routes along Jongno and Euljiro respectively.


Regional services

Virtually all towns in South Korea of any size whatsoever are served by regional bus service. Regional routes are classified as Gosok ("high speed") or Shioe (pronounced "shee-way" -- literally, "suburban") with Gosok buses operating over the longest distances and making the fewest (if any) stops en route. Shioe buses typically operate over shorter distances, are somewhat slower, and make more stops.

Local services

Within cities and towns, two types of city bus operate: Jwaseok ("seat") and Ilban ("regular"). Both types of bus often serve the same routes, make the same stops, and operate on similar frequencies, but Jwaseok buses are more expensive, offer comfortable seating, and do not take standees; while Ilban buses are cheaper, have fewer and less comfortable seats, and take standees.

Other services

Incheon International Airport is served by an extensive network of comfortable, high-speed buses from all parts of the country. Virtually every department store has its own small network of buses for shoppers, and even most churches and daycares send buses around to pick up their congregants or pupils.


total: 86,990 km
paved: 64,808 km (including 1,996 km of expressways)
unpaved: 22,182 km (1998 est.)

Highways in South Korea are classifed into freeways (expressways/motorways), national highways, and various classifications below the national level. All freeways are toll highways, and all freeways except Route 130 are operated by the Korea Highway Corporation (Website). The freeway network serves all parts of South Korea. The Highway Corporation operates excellent service amenities (dining and service facilities) en route. Click here for a map of the freeway system.


1,609 km; use restricted to small native craft


Virtually cut off from the Asian mainland, South Korea is a seafaring nation, with one of the world's largest shipbuilding industries and an extensive system of ferry services. Most ferry operators are small, private operators. The south and west coasts of the country are dotted with small islands which are served by ferries. In addition, the larger offshore Jeju and Ulleung Islands are also served by ferry. Ferries also operate between South Korea, China, and Japan. Major centres for ferry service include Incheon, Mokpo, Pohang, and Busan.

Ports and Harbours

Jinhae, Incheon, Gunsan, Masan, Mokpo, Pohang, Busan, Donghae, Ulsan, Yeosu

Merchant Marine

total: 461 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 5,093,620 GRT/8,100,634 DWT
ships by type: bulk 98, cargo 149, chemical tanker 39, combination bulk 4, container 53, liquified gas 13, multi-functional large load carrier 1, passenger 3, petroleum tanker 61, refrigerated cargo 26, roll-on/roll-off 4, specialized tanker 4, vehicle carrier 6 (1999 est.)

Air Travel


South Korea is served by two national air carriers: Korean Air (Website) and Asiana Airlines (Website). Both provide frequent domestic service and operate extensive international networks.


Seoul is served by two airports: Incheon International Airport (Website) and Gimpo Airport (Website). International routes mainly serve Incheon, while domestic services mainly use Gimpo. Other major airports are located at Busan and Jeju.

Number of airports: 103 (1999 est.)

Airports - with paved runways:
total: 67
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 18
1,524 to 2,437 m: 15
914 to 1,523 m: 13
under 914 m: 20 (1999 est.)

Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 36
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 32 (1999 est.)

Heliports: 203 (1999 est.)


petroleum products 455 km; note - additionally, there is a parallel petroleum, oils, and lubricants (POL) pipeline being completed

See also: South Korea