In a Nutshell: I was part of the first ever group of foreigners given access to all stations across both lines of the Pyongyang Metro. This may sound mundane, but the restricted Pyongyang Metro is surely among the most mysterious yet beautiful transit systems on earth. Each of its sixteen stations are unique yet ultra-nationalistic in theme, showcasing North Korea’s revolutionary history, goals and achievements to impressionable commuters through a series of mosaics, murals and monuments. It’s a lavish underground museum long shrouded by foreign conspiracy theory. Sensationalism aside, here is my journey in over sixty photos of the beating heart of Pyongyang, the Pyongyang Metro.
About: I’m Elliott. I’m the tour director at North Korea tour operator Uri Tours. I travel a lot myself, sometimes to the unusual, weird and wacky. Earth Nutshell is where I share my experiences. Interested in visiting North Korea for yourself? Shoot me an email at [email protected].
To set the scene, here’s a small video snippet descending to the platforms with the sound of revolutionary anthems booming from antique loudspeakers central to the escalator…
More photos, more details…) Thank you!
Great article. And fascinating how the transport system can say so much about political and cultural mores. Bravo!
Absolutely fascinating. Some stunning imagery, yet it was your presentation of ‘the facts’ that made the whole article so rivetting. No polemic or cynical asides, you just presented what you saw and let us make up our own minds (I wish more people did that!). Excellent – well done.
Did a reverse image search for that sign but it doesn’t seem to be American-sourced:
-long link removed-
Wonderful article as usual. I was wondering, with so little traffic and everyone riding bicycles, surely the air must be clean. Or is there nearby industry we haven’t seen in your pictures?
Thanks for sharing!
“The streets of Pyongyang are spotless; I don’t think I saw a single piece of litter in the city.”
“commuters didn’t speak or interact with each other and boarding or alighting the train was an effortless, polite process with self-organised order.”
Time for “free” Westerners to learn something from “primitive” North Korea.
Thanks – great article and photos!
“Schoolchildren led by their teachers regularly use the Pyongyang Metro. I’m unsure why the students have tags attached to their arm, any guesses? Ponghwa Station, Chollima line.”
Is there any way you can show a close-up of those tags? I am Korean-American and lived in Seoul for several years until ninth grade. In school, we were required to wear school badges, kind of like ID cards, that said what school we went to, name, grade and class numbers, student ID number, etc. Usually a current photo was attached as well. We were supposed to wear them any time we were out and about in our uniforms for school trips, or at least keep them on our persons. I just wonder if those tags are something similar to that.
Thanks for sharing these photos, by the way, they’re really great! The subway system, with its pillars and columns and Communistic/socialistic murals really remind me of the ones I saw in the subways in St. Petersburg in Russia.
Re: the tags on the boys’ shirts. They seem to be flipped school shields held with safety pins. We had them for a while in Mexico, it is an inexpensive way to turn a plain white shirt into a uniform shirt. They are probably mandatory, but maybe they “accidentally happen” to flip them to feel out of uniform? That last bit is conjecture. Great pictures.