Seoul’s Subway System

Category : Surviving in Korea
Nov 28, 2014

Koreans accredit Seoul’s subway system as being the best in the world, and although we all like being good at things, Koreans aren’t just tooting their own horn about their transportation network - it deserves the praise it gets. The subway system has nine regular lines, plus eight special private lines. The subway is open from just after 05:00 to just after 24:00, but not all lines open and close at the same time. At any given point, there are over one million people riding the subway in Seoul. The main lines cover most of Seoul. while the special lines for the most part connect satellite cities to Seoul. The subway is not just a convenient way to get from A to B, the stations are also entertaining places to hang out, eat, and go shopping.


  • Click here for a map of Seoul’s subway system.


It’s a BIG Network!

Riding the subway is easy. However, the other day I managed to go the wrong way on line 6 and after living here for three years, I really should know my way around. My friend once rode the subway from Seoul Station to Dong-Incheon and back to Seoul Station 3 times in a row. She kept falling asleep and missing her stop. So despite how efficient and simple the subway is, you do need to learn your way around and try not to doze through your stop!


For your first few times, pick up a subway map. You can plan your routes and familiarize yourself with the lines. There are two Smartphone applications that are worth downloading: Jihachul (called “Subway Korea” in English) and Seoul City Metro. Jihachul is an interactive application that lets you check station information and calculate times and distances between stations. Seoul Metro is more basic. It’s just a map with some details about the stations.


àGet the apps:

  1. Jihachul: iTunes Store or Android Apps
  2. Seoul City Metro: iTunes Store


Riding the Subway

Buy your ticket from the ticket machine inside the station or pick up a reloadable T-money card (details below). Look at the map, make sure you know where you’re going and beep into the correct subway line. When you beep in, place your card on top of the payment pad. Don’t move your card around or ‘swipe’ it back and forth. Simply hold your card over the pad until it beeps and the gates open. Walk through at that point. Walk down to the platform and wait for your train to arrive.


There are large TVs mounted inside the subway platform. They show how many stops away the approaching train is from the station you are at. It uses GPS technology so it’s very accurate.  A general rule is that the train takes two minutes for each stop. If the TV shows the train is two stops away, you will wait about four minutes for the train to arrive. You can also use this rule to calculate how long your journey will take. For transfers add an additional five to ten minutes.


à Example: To get from Seoul Station on line 4 to Yaksu station on line 6, you must travel five stops and transfer once. It will take about 20 minutes [(2x5) + 10].



Paying for the Seoul metro couldn’t be easier and you’ve got a few options to choose from. First, check out this chart that shows the prices for subway rides in Seoul:



Type of Journey

Basic Fare for the first 10 km (KRW)

Fare after 10 km within Seoul (KRW)

Fare After 40 km within Seoul (KRW)

Fare after 30 km outside of Seoul (KRW)

Adult (19+)

Single Journey


100KRW for each additional 5 km

100KRW for each additional 10 km

100KRW for each additional 5km

T-Money Card


Youth (13-18)

Single Journey


T-Money Card


Child (6-12)

Single Journey


T-Money Card


Baby (0-5)



Single Journey Tickets: For the “occasional” subway rider

If you are traveling in Korea or only using the subway once in while, you can buy single journey tickets.

You can purchase single journey tickets from the ticket vending machines in every subway station.

  1. Before you begin, choose the language, then select ‘single journey ticket’.
  2. From there, pick the station you want to go to and how many tickets you want to buy.
  3. Insert the money into the coin or bill slot (it’s okay if you don’t have exact change).
  4. The ticket will come out at the bottom of the machine along with your change.


à Note: There is a refundable charge of 500won for single journey tickets. You get your refund once you get off the subway. Look for a taller, slimmer machine that says “Deposit Refund Device” near the ticketing machines in the station. Insert your single journey card and you’ll get your 500 won back.


T-Money: For the “expat” subway rider

T-money is awesome. It’s a refillable charge card that you use to beep in and out of the subway. When you use a T-money card you get a 100KRW discount. It may not sound like much at first, but it does add up when you ride the tube hundreds of times. T-money cards are really smart; they keep track of the distance you travel and charge you accordingly when you beep out. You can also use T-money to ride the buses and in taxis.


You can buy cards at any convenience store, or from the T-money vending machine located in most subway stations by the ticketing machines. T-money usually comes in card form, but you can also get cell phone charms, or attach T-money to your bank card so the money withdrawals directly from your bank account. You never ever to charge your T-money card again! The cards aren’t expensive either, ranging from 3,000KRW to 6,000KRW depending on what style you buy. See the article All About T-money for more information.


M-Pass: For the “traveling” subway rider

This is a handy T-money card that lets you ride the subway and buses up to 20 times in one day. You can buy them in one day (10,000KRW), two day (18,000KRW), three day (25,500KRW), five day (42,500KRW) or seven day passes (59,500KRW). They expire at midnight on the last day. You can pick up an M-Pass at any Seoul Travel Information Center located at tourist hotspots around Seoul or the Incheon International Airport. Pick one up upon arrival and you’ll be set for a week of touring in the capital! Read up on other Tourists Passes.


à Note: There is a refundable charge of 4,500KRW, which you can get back when you return the card at a Tourist Information Center and a non refundable charge of 500KRW when you first purchase the card. You can also recharge the card if you end up using it as a charge card in places which accept T-money as payment (like in convenience stores and taxis).


Don’t get Mixed-Up Transferring!

  1. Check out the subway line map posted on the windows of the platform partition. Find the station you want to transfer to and look at the number written below the station name. That’s the carriage you should get on at in order to be nearby the subway transfer location when you get off at the transfer station. It will save you a few minutes because you won’t have to walk the length of the subway tunnel to reach the transfer.
  2. For example: On the light brown line (line 6) at Itaewon Station, enter car 1-1 to transfer easily to the orange line (line 3) at Yaksu station.
  3. Seoul Station (Gyeonguiseon Line to/from Subway Line 1, 4), Noryangjin Station (Subway Line 1 to/from Subway Line 9), and Gyeyang Station (Incheon Subway Line to/from Airport Railway) do not have transfers within the platform area. You must beep out of one subway line and into the next subway line in order to transfer. If you have a single journey ticket, you will need to buy a new ticket for the next ride you take.
  4. You have 30 minutes to transfer subways or buses. After that period expires, you will be charged a new fare. If you transfer within the 30 minutes, your distance continues to be calculated and the price in the table above applies based on how far you go. This rule also applies if you go from the subway to a bus and vice versa. As long as you beep in and out of the bus and subway with your T-money card (it does not apply for a single journey ticket), the distance will keep tallying until you reach your final destination. More money will be taken from your card if the distance is sufficiently far enough when you beep out at your last stop.


Losing Stuff in the Subway

Hopefully you don’t lose anything while you’re on the subway, but it can happen. If you care about it, you can get it back or at least try. The Seoul subway system is operated by different companies, so it’s best to contact the company that operates the line you were on when you lost your belonging. It’s great if you can note the time you got off, the carriage you were in and the train number. But sometimes that’s not always possible.


Go to the administration office within that subway station if you realize you lost something right away. They can file a report immediately and when they locate where the train you were on is, someone can pick it up for you. If you’re not able to file a report right away at the station you arrived, at report it to the lost and found authority for the subway corporation operating the line you were on (listed below).




Lost and Found Main Office

Phone Number

Lost and Found Website

Seoul Metro

Line 1 and 2

City Hall



Line 3 and 4



Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corporation

Line 5 and 8




Line 6 and 7




Gyeongin Line

Guro Station



Ilsan Line

Daegok Station


Gyeongwon Line

Seongbuk Station


Ansan Line

Ansan Station


Bundang Line

Seonneung Station


Geongbu Line

Byeongjeom Station


Incheon Subway

Line 1 Incheon

Bupyeong-gu Office



Airport Railway


Kimpo Airport



Metro 9

Line 9

Donjak Station




Cool things to do in the Stations

Subway stations aren’t just a place to use the public transportation. They also have things to do in them. You could even consider them tourist attractions. While you’re visiting Seoul, you don’t need to rush around from museum to museum. Take a break in the subway station and enjoy a snack and some shopping.


Art: It isn’t uncommon to see art exhibitions displayed in the subway stations. Gwanghwamun Station (Line 5) and Gyeongbokgung Station (Line 3) both have small galleries underground and many stations downtown put on shows from time to time.


Underground Markets: Don’t worry! If you forget your gloves or an umbrella (or even your pants) you’re bound to find stores selling everything you could ever need. Not only are there underground stores, but there are underground markets. It’s easy to get caught up for hours and the goods tend to be super cheap!

  1. Good underground subway markets are at: Buypeong Station (Line 1, Incheon line 1 and Line 7), Gangnam Station (Line 2), Express Bus (Goseok) Terminal Station (Line 3, 7 and 9), Dongdaemun Station (Line 1 and 4), and Jamsil Station (Line 2 and 8).


Direct entrances into large department stores: There are exits right into the fancy department stores from the subway stations, so you don’t have to go outside to get shopping. Jamsil Station (Line 2 and 6) has an entrance right into Lotte World and Lotte Department Store. You can go from Yongsan Station (Line 1 and Jungang Line) directly to IPark (electronics mall, E-mart and CGV). Shinchon Station (Line 2) and Apgujeong Station (Line 3) are both connected to Hyundai Department Stores. Goseok Express Bus Terminal (Line 2, 7 and 9) has a department store entrance into Shinsegae.


Coffee shops and restaurants: There are always small coffee shops, convenience stores and quick eats in the Subway. You don’t have to go starving all the way to your destination- grab a coffee, a muffin or some kimbap /김밥 (Korean sushi) to go!


Vendors and vending machines: Vendors sell rice cakes, traditional snacks, and drinks. They usually have newspapers and some supplies like hair clips, pens and notepads too. The vending machines sell the usual drinks, chips, cookies and chocolate bars.


LED advertisements and interactive subway maps: LED advertisements aren’t so much a thing to do as something to entertain you while you travel. They appear on the walls of the subway tunnels and they light up to form advertisements as you whiz by. There are also useful, fun interactive subway maps in the stations that you can play with to find your route.


Other Amenities include: Washrooms, rest areas and benches, elevators and escalators, subway and exit maps, well marked exit signs, nearby attractions listed by exit number, and lockers to put your stuff while you’re browsing around the neighborhood are all located in every station.


Seoul Subway Lines


Subway Line (hoseon/


Area of Service

Starting Station

Ending Station

Line Operator

Number of Stations

Line 1 호선

Color: Dark Blue

Main line connecting Incheon and South Gyeonggi-do to North Gyeonggi-do. The line cuts diagonally through Seoul and hits many central stations.


Incheon/ Sinchang/ Gwangmyeong/ Seodongtan

Korail/ Seoul Metro


Line 2 호선

Color: Bright Green

Central circle line

CityHall/ Seongsu/ Sindorim

City Hall/ Sinseol-dong/ Kkachisan

Seoul Metro


Line 3 호선

Color: Orange

Starts south on the east side of Gyeonggi-do, runs vertically and slightly east down the centre of Seoul, then heads toward the west side at Chungmoro Station.



Korail/ Seoul Metro


Line 4 호선

Color: Bright Blue

Starts South on the west side of Gyeonggi-do, runs vertically and slightly west down the centre of Seoul, then heads toward the west side at Chungmoro Station.



Korail/ Seoul Metro


Line 5 호선

Color: Purple

Runs west to east through the middle of Seoul. Crosses the river south at Gunja and Yeouido


Sangil-dong/ Macheon

Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit


Line 6 호선

Color: Light Brown

Runs west to east through the middle of Seoul. Remains just north of the river at all times.



Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit


Line 7 호선


Army Green

Runs from the very North-East corner of Seoul south, crossing the river at Ttukseom Resort. Then heads across Seoul just below the river west to Incheon.


Bupyeong-gu Office

Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit


Line 8 호선

Color: Pink

Runs only in the east side from North to South. Jamsil Station is right in the middle of the line.



Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit


Line 9 호선

Color: Beige

Runs from Gangnam-gu to north Incheon diagonally.



Seoul Metro Line9 Corporation


Bundang Line


Color: Bright yellow

Runs from north-east central Seoul down through Bundang slightly to the east





Incheon Line

인천 1호선

Color: Light Blue

Runs directly from the North of Incheon to the South. Bupyeong Station is in the middle of the line.


International Business District

Incheon Transit


Jungang Line


Color: Ice blue

Runs from above the river in central Seoul east and slightly south into Gyeonggi-do. Crosses the river at Gaksu Station.





Gyeongchun Line


Color: Sky Blue

Run only in the north-east side in Gyeonggi-do. It connects to the Jungang Line at Mangu Station.





Gyeongui Line


Color: Teal

Runs from central Seoul toward Gyeongi-do in the noth-west. It runs farther north than the Incheon line.

Gongdeok/ Seoul Station




Suin Line


Color: Gold

Connects line 4 to the Incheon line in south Gyeonggi-do.





Sinbundang Line



Dark Red

Runs from Seocho-gu down through the center of Bundang slightly to the east.



Neo Trans


Uijeongbu LRT

의정부 경전철

Color: Bright orange

Runs in the north-east part of Gyeonggi-do around Uijeongbu



Uijeongbu LRT Corporation




Color: Powder Blue

Connects Incheon Airport and Gimpo Airport to Seoul station in 40 minutes.

Seoul Station

Incheon International Airport

Korail Airport Railroad



More Information

  1. Seoul Metro Website
  1. Seoul Metro Rapid Transportation Corporation (SMRT) Website
Tags : Lifestyle. Seoul. Transportation. Subway. Metro.

Lindsey lived and worked in Seoul, South Korea for over 5 years. While there, she dabbled in different areas of work and explored the culture. She spent time teaching elementary students, business English to adults and high school students about college preparation. She also studied Korean, wrote blogs and tasted as many foods as she possibly could including fermented skate fish. Over the years, Lindsey developed a love for Korea and the culture. She is keen to share her knowledge of Korea with others and she will always consider Korea a second home.