I have a love-hate affair with the subways in Seoul. The system here is advanced, easy to navigate, signage is in multiple languages and quite frankly it puts many of the US subway systems such as Boston and New York to shame with its convenience and efficiency. These are all the reasons why I am in love with South Korea’s subway system. There is only one reason why I hate this system, but sadly it is a pretty big reason…I am freaked out on the possibility of being crushed by a South Korean subway system door. This may sound a bit extreme but let me take a moment to explain myself.
In other subway systems people load onto the subway and an alarm signals the doors will be closing, at which point the doors start to close. If the doors hit something such as a person or a briefcase or whatever, the doors then open, an announcement is made and they begin to close again. This action continues on until the doorways are cleared and the doors close freely. Here in South Korea the station makes the sound announcing the doors are closing and then, they close. That’s it. They close. If you are in the doorway; if a purse, a bag, a body part is in the doorway, they close and that’s that. It quite honestly freaks me out. I see people trying to cram into over-packed carts all the time but for me if the cart is close to being full, I just step back and wait for the next one. Why? Well, i kind of like having all of my limbs still attached to me.
Don’t believe me? Here are two stories, one funny and one sickly just to put this situation into perspective. By the way I personally know both of the subjects in each story and in the sickly story I got to see first hand what these doors can do to a body part…
Hmmm should I go humorous or disturbing first. Alright we’re going with disturbing because I’d rather you all left me on a positive note.
I knew a man, his name was Jon. He was a big man, built like a football player and strong. He worked out and was in good shape for his age and size. One afternoon he was rushing to get onto a subway cart and although he could her the announcement sounding that the doors were going to be closing he chose to proceed anyway. He made it onto the subway cart, but, not all of him. The doors closed on the back of his foot right behind the ankle. They did not reopen. Shock followed by screams of agony erupted as the train took off from the platform. We are in Korea though and so as he stood, foot pinned in the metal doorways, screaming, he looked around and found a cart full of Koreans just staring back. Of course no one got up to help, come to his rescue or really do anything at all. (Lack of assistance for others is quite common here but that perhaps is a story for another time and place.) So as mentioned above, Jon, being the big guy that he is, used pure force and adrenaline to reach behind himself and with one concrete motion he pried the doors just a bit apart, enough to unlock his foot from the clamp…The bruise, even two weeks after the incident when I saw it was ridiculous. Behind his ankle was a massive welt, black and blue like ink.
David, a quirky English teacher in his mid-thirties was riding the Seoul subway system home one day. He hoped on-board but somehow didn’t pull his jacket all the way into the cart in time and the metal doors closed on it. Not too big of a deal right…well turned out that the subway train continued along its path stopping at each station however, the loading and unloading platform for every single one of the stops was the opposite site of the subway cart. For 45 minutes David was forced to simply stand and wait for his side of the train to pull into a station where his doors would open so he could free his coat and finally gain his own personal freedom from the underground!
If you learn anything from these tales I hope that it is that the five minutes you might have saved by getting onto an overpacked train is not worth the possibility of losing a limb!