On the way back to China and the Bejing hutong, a short stop in North Korea…
What you see here is Yonggwang station, one of the two Pyongyang Metro (subway) stations that are actually accessible to foreigners: you can get in at one station, travel to the next, and then get off. Always accompanied by your two guides, that is – it’s not as though you can decide today to go somewhere and take the subway to get there… (According to Wikipedia, three more stations may be accessible by foreigners now, but in 2006 it was only Puhŭng station and Yonggwang station.)
There were rumors at the time that this stretch was the only one where trains were actually running – but we saw people on the train beyond these two stations. There were also rumors that all the people one sees on the subway and in the stations are actually actors – but many hundreds of people would have been a bit much for just our group (we didn’t see any other groups), quite apart from the impossibility of having to time that precisely for our imprecise arrival (and surely such ‘acting’ would not have been a full-time job with the scarcity of tourists – what would they be dong the rest of the time?); and that doesn’t account for the groups of excited school kids who were on their way to the airport to welcome the national football team arriving back from Russia where they won a tournament (we actually saw them on TV the next day waving their pink and red feather plumes).
So – bull. There are two lines and I’m betting at least one is functional. That said, Pyongyang (and the whole country) had a shortage of power and was saving energy where they could, so stations weren’t as brightly lit as they could have been and service might have been cut short on some non-essential stretches. But clearly, the subway was functional, and in use by ordinary people.
Inspired by the Moscow subway, it seems, each station had its own decorations – some of it quite impressive in a way. But in the relative gloom and having only a humble compact camera to shoot with (forget about my SLR, let alone a tripod – at least my compact was only slightly frowned upon), I don’t have many presentable pictures of the subway. But this one gives at least an impression of what one of the stations looks like. ;)
Camera: Fuji Finepix F30
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