the pyongyang metro
photos


Unless otherwise indicated, these photos were taken by me on a trip between Puhung and Yonggwang stations in September 1998. These two are generally believed to be the two most attractive on the Pyongyang Metro system, and as the last two stations on the Chollima Line, it’s probably easier to organize visits for foreigners without disrupting operations elsewhere.


Journey to the center of the earth

The escalators go down a long way, strong evidence that the system could be used as a bomb shelter. Another reason may be that the original plans envisaged a crossing of the deep Taedong River further south on this line. A tunnel collapse in 1971, which killed over 100 people, led to the line being rediverted westwards.

Don't get shut out if they nuke Pyongyang

There is a corridor at the bottom. Note the thick steel blast doors.

How low can you go

A view from the starcase above the station platform. At the other end is the mosaic “The Great Leader Kim Il Sung Among Workers.” Here you can get a reasonably good look at the chandeliers. Puhung is the terminus station, and the train we boarded is on the left. The train on the right reversed into the station and then departed in the opposite direction shortly afterward, not what might be expected from normal subway operation. Both trains are former East Berlin GI stock, built at Hennigsdorf near Berlin.

An orphan among trains

A closer view of the departing train. This photo has graced the cover of the March 2000 Berliner Verkehrsblätter (Berlin Transit Pages) and was featured in the German railway magazine Drehscheibe (Turntable). The mural “A Morning of Innovation” is visible to the right.

Sorry about the flash

Another view of the mural “A Morning of Innovation”.

Primus inter proletares

A close-up of the mural “The Great Leader Kim Il Sung Among Workers.” This 2002 digital photo was supplied by a visitor to Pyongyang.

Mystery port

Alongside the murals behind the tracks are a series of bronze plaques such as this one. Although fairly abstract, it may depict the port of Nampo near Pyongyang. The locomotives are Pulgungi 1 models, North Korea’s first electric locomotives, built from 1961 by Kim Jong Tae General Electric Locomotive Enterprise in Pyongyang. Compare the mural to the picture of a Pulgungi 1 below (from DPRK sources):

Now plug it in

The Pulgungi 1 (“Red Banner”) was itself a version of the Czechoslovak E449.0 locomotives of the 1950s:

The original

Now back to Pyongyang:

Guards or prisoners?

The train dispatchers spent several minutes having their picture taken. Behind them is the mural “Song of a Bumper Crop.”

Die Fahne hoch...

This 2002 picture taken by the digital-camera-owning tourist gives a better view of the mural, as well as of another snappliy dressed dispatcher.

The Telescreen Twins

Inside the train hang the portraits of the two Great Leaders, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, at both ends of the car. (Kim Jong Il was added when he was promoted to Great Leader.) This is the former location of the manufacturer’s plaque. (That manufacturer was Vereinigter Schienenfahrzeugbau der DDR — VEB Lokomotivbau-Elektrotechnische Werke «Hans Beimler» Stammbetrieb Hennigsdorf. Makes you wish you could hear their company song.)

A pyrrhic victory

Yonggwang (Glory) Station. The pillars are meant to look like victory torches bursting into flame. At the top of the staircase is another mosaic showing Lake Cho on Mount Paektu, on the Korean-Chinese border, where it is claimed Kim Jong Il was born (Soviet records show him being born in Khabarovsk, Russia). Picture taken by abovementioned tourist in 2002.

Reminder: You're in Pyongyang

A mural at Yonggwang Station depicting the 170-meter Tower of the Juche Idea on the Taedong River in central Pyongyang.

Now look busy

This April 1999 picture of the entrance to Puhing Station was provided by Leonid Petrov. The fact that the Korean passengers are all very smartly dressed suggests that foreigners’ visits to the Metro are carefully organized.

In the background: the Ministry of Truth

Yonggwang Station from outside. Many other stations appear to have similar buildings. Note the statue out front and the mysterious, 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in the background. This unfinished pyramid was built because a South Korean company constructed a 103-story hotel in Singapore. (Similarly, the Pyongyang Metro may have been built in part because of plans to construct the Seoul subway; in the event Pyongyang opened a year before Seoul.)

Triumphant return

The reception hall at Kaeson Station is another hexagonal pavilion. This photo was taken by Miguel Torres, from the site Travel-Images.com.

Viva Las Vegas

So, for that matter, is Hwanggumbyol Station. This nighttime photo shows the elaborate neon lighting that decorates the building.


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