Lecture Video: From the First Tram to Korea’s Modern Day Transport System

Transportation played a very important role in Korea’s economic growth during the 20th century. It developed as rapidly as the economy, and today Korea’s cities have some of the most efficient public transport systems in the world. This lecture will take the audience through how public transport developed from the first trams in Seoul to today’s subway systems, and conclude by looking at what the future holds.

The introduction of trams was a watershed moment for Korea entering the modern era at the end of the 19th century. Under Japanese colonial rule, Seoul’s inner-city tram system was expanded and carried around 150,000 passengers per day at its peak. After the Korean War, trams had to compete with buses and cars. Cities shifted their focus to the development of underground rail systems and trams disappeared in 1968. Six years later Seoul opened its first subway line, and since then over 18 lines have been added to Seoul’s capital region, becoming one of the largest subway systems in the world. Bus systems in Korea have also become advanced and well integrated with other modes of transport.

Over the last ten years cities have continued to experiment with other modes of transport, with light rail in particular proving popular nationwide.

Although it has been almost fifty years since trams disappeared from Seoul’s streets, there has recently been a strong interest in the reintroduction of trams to cities around Korea. What are the motivations for bringing back trams and is Korea on the verge of a tram renaissance? What else does the future hold for public transport in Korea?

Andy Tebay and Nikola Medimorec are writers for Kojects, a website about public transport and urban development in Korea. Andy started the website in 2011 to help inform people about the various public transport and development projects in progress around Korea. Nikola joined him two years later, contributing topics related to cycling and walking in Korean cities. See their website Kojects.


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