Korail operates commuter, subway, intercity and freight trains throughout South Korea. The railroad's headquarters are located in Daejeon.
What is now known as Korail was started as Railroad Administration Bureau of the Ministry of Transportation with the establishment of South Korean government. On September 1, 1963, the bureau became an agency that was known as Korean National Railroad (KNR) in English. In 2003, KNR adopted the current "Korail" logo in blue, but the "Korail" name was adopted before 2003. On January 1, 2005, KNR was split into Korea Railroad Corporation, which succeeded railroad operation with the Korail logo and name, and Korea Rail Network Authority, which succeeded maintaining tracks. In 2007, Corporate identity combining regarding 'Korail" was officially ended. In 2013 Dr. Choi YeonHye was appointed as the first female president and CEO of Korail.
Korail operates all the long distance lines in South Korea as well as local lines. The Gyeongbu Line with its high-speed parallel line, running between the two largest cities, Seoul and Busan, is by far the most heavily travelled line. Other main lines include Honam Line and Jeolla Line, stretching into Jeolla region, the Janghang Line and the Jungang Line.
The South Korean government plans to invest $US 88 billion in the network from 2011 to 2020, with extensive double-tracking and electrification.
The current list of railway lines with regular passenger service is as follows (urban Seoul metro lines excepted):
The Gyeongui and Gyeongwon lines were country's main lines before division, but after division, only local trains have been in service. Now these two lines are almost regarded as metro lines, with Tonggeun (Commuter) services in some sections.
Korail covers a total of 104 stations with its 150 trains. An average of 2,177,000 people use Korail's commuter lines every day.
The highest level of Korail trains is KTX (Korea Train Express). KTX trains run along Gyeongbu Line and Honam Line. ITX (Intercity Train Express), introduced in February 2012, runs along non-HSR lines and have more stops. As of August 2014, there are two ITX services available; ITX-Cheongchun (ITX-청춘) on Gyeongchun Line, and ITX-Saemaul (ITX-새마을) on Gyeongbu, Jungang, and Honam Line.
Saemaul-ho (새마을호), which borrowed its name from New Community Movement, provides the fastest and most comfortable service in selected conventional rail lines. After ITX-Saemaul service introduced, Saemaul-ho service will gradually replaced with new ITX service and only non-electrified service will remain as Saemaul class.
Mugunghwa-ho (무궁화호), the most popular grade, is most popular in Korail service order. Almost every rail line has one or more regular Mugunghwa-ho schedule, mainly express but also including one or more local services. Nuriro (누리로) service, introduced in June 2009, is medium- to long-distance service similar to German RegionalExpress. Nuriro service mainly runs between Seoul and Sinchang and placed between Seoul Subway and Mugunghwa-ho.
Korail offers a rail pass called Korea Rail Pass, or KR Pass for short, to foreign travelers, such that they can take most of the trains operated by Korail freely, including KTX. But subways and tourist trains by Korail are not covered.
Foreigners living in South Korea for more than six months are ineligible for using KR Pass, but Korail offers the Happy Rail Pass, which is very similar to the KR Pass, for a slightly a higher price.
Most of the railroad's employees are members of the Korean Railway Workers' Union, which is frequently at odds with Korail management. Strikes, such as the South Korean railroad strike of 2006, are not uncommon.
In December 2013, 23,000-100,000 union members and friends protested the privatization of Korail in Seoul.
Until the division of Korea following the end of the Second World War, the Gyeongui Line and Gyeongwon Line extended into what is now North Korea. The Gyeongui Line connected Seoul to Kaesong, Pyongyang, and Sinuiju on the Chinese border, while the Gyeongwon Line served Wonsan on the east coast. Another line—the Kumgangsan Electric Railway—connected the town of Cheorwon, now on the border of North and South Korea, on the Gyeongwon Line, to Mt. Geumgang, now in the North.
The Gyeongui Line is one of two lines whose southern and northern halves are now being reconnected, the other line being the Donghae Bukbu Line. On 17 May 2007, two test trains ran on the reconnected lines: one on the west line from Munsan to Kaesong; the second on the east from Jejin to Kumgang.
In December 2007, regular freight service started on the Gyeongui line, from South Korea into the Kaesong Industrial Park in the north. The service has been underutilized, however: as it was reported in October 2008, on 150 out of 163 return trips that had been done so far, the train carried no cargo at all. The total amount of cargo carried over this period had been merely 340 tons. This absence of interest in the service has been explained by the customers' (companies operating in Kaesong) preference for road transport. In November 2008, North Korea shut down the link.
There is no railroad connection between South Korea and Japan
Japan Rail Kyushu offers a jet foil ferry service between Busan and Fukuoka taking about 3 hours.
A Korean Strait undersea tunnel was proposed from Fukuoka to Busan via Tsushima as far back as 1917, but the plan has never progressed past the research phase. While the increased wealth of South Korea and continued growth of trade between the nations has made the economic case for the tunnel more compelling, promotion has focused more on using the project to reduce political tension between the nations.
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