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[Op-Ed] Gwanghwamun-Gangnam Subway Line

Posted December. 20, 2008 03:57,   


An office worker left his office nearby Gwanghwamun in central Seoul to go to Gangnam subway station in southern Seoul to attend a year-end party with friends. He took a bus heading for Gangnam from Gwanghwamun. The bus, however, took the Gyeongbu Expressway linking Seoul and Busan. The worker discovered he got on the wrong bus with a similar number of his intended bus. The bus passed through Pangyo Interchange after 9:30 p.m. He got off the bus in the Bundang district of Seongnam, a southern Seoul suburb, and tried to get a cab to Gangnam. He felt helpless, however, as he could find no light. The worker was stuck at an empty construction site.

Going from Gangbuk (north of the Han River) to Gangnam (south of the river) during rush hour is tough. Cabs or passenger cars are not a good choice. Roads nearby the Nos. 1 and 3 Namsan Tunnels linking both sides are always congested during rush hour. Hannam Road is simply terrible. If one takes a cab in Gangbuk, one must get off nearby Shinsa subway station and get on a bus that runs on bus-only lanes. The subway is usually the safest choice to travel from one side of the river to the other, but still takes almost an hour since two transfers are needed. It takes too long to travel from Gwanghwamun to Gangnam.

The proposal to create a subway line connecting Gwanghwamun to Gangnam (11.74 kilometers) in 11 minutes sounds attractive. Suggested by domestic steel giant POSCO, the new line would link Gangnam station (subway line No. 2), New Banpo station (No. 9), Nonhyeon Station (No. 7), New Hannam station (No. 2), City Hall station (Nos. 1 & 2), Gwanghwamun station (No. 5) and Gyeongbokgung station (No. 3). Since the line is short and overlaps with other lines, it will benefit many people traveling between Gangbuk and Gangnam.

The No. 2 subway line circling Seoul is the center of the capital’s subway network. Lines Nos. 3 and 4 are located in an “X” shape and lines Nos. 5, 6, 7, and 8 are nearby newly built apartment complexes. No subway line, however, connects downtown with Gangnam. If the new line is built, commuters can leave Bundang and arrive at City Hall in 28 minutes since the new Bundang line (starting from Jeongja station) and Gangnam station will be connected. It will ease heavy traffic on the Gyeongbu Expressway, where traffic congestion has worsened after bus-only lanes were introduced. Residents in satellite cities including Bundang, Suji, and Gwanggyo will also have easy access to downtown Seoul. More importantly, the new line could reduce the psychological gap between Gangbuk and Gangnam residents.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)