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      트위터 페이스북 미투데이 네이버 구글 msn  
Standing Room Ticket
2014년 01월 10일 (금) 11:44:34 GLOBE globe@jbnu.ac.kr

   
There’s this perfect little step as you enter a train car. It’s cold and metal and if you’re lucky you can sit down and see little bits of snow rising up from that whirring accordion-like gap where the two cars connect. It’s near the luggage storage compartment and just outside the toilets. Some call it “입석”. Some call it “standing room”. I call it “The beginning of my Korean journey.”
Where are you from? How long have you lived in Korea? What do you like about living in Korea? Well, I like teaching, spicy Korean food...and the train- I really love the train. Especially with the addition of the high speed KTX, traveling across the country in a reasonably short amount of time is not only possible but also economical. This is a novel experience for a person from Canada where it can take a whole day just to get to the next province over. I got my driver's license when I was 16 and have always loved going on road trips and drives in the country. To me, the car is a Canadian experience but here in Korea - it’s the train.
The three types of trains are KTX, Saemaeul, and Mugunghwa. Whether you can pronounce “Mungungwhahaa” or not, there is always an experience waiting for you in its cafe car. I consider the cafe car a magical place, not just because of the swirling green, yellow and orange patterns on the walls, but because of the fun! If banana milk, instant coffee or snacks at the bar stools are not your thing, you could always try the karaoke room, or play some arcade games. Admittedly, not everyone takes advantage of all the entertainment options in the cafe car, but they do take advantage of the carpeted floor and open space. After a few stops, this open space quickly transforms into a fascinating multi-layered array of sitting, squatting, hovering, leaning, and standing bodies and their bags.
When I first arrived in Korea, I remember Korail playing James Morrison’s “You give me something” throughout the stations and in their TV commercials. These days, Korail’s motto is “Refresh your life with a train.” If you’ve ever been stuck in traffic on an overheated bus or taxi, you learn to appreciate the convenience and comforts of train travel. Whether going to a strawberry festival in Nonsan, a mighty fortress in Suwon, perhaps heading out for a night out in Daejeon or to a rocky harbor in Yeosu, traveling is refreshing. Traveling is movement. It is here, there, and everything in between.
“Where should we go this weekend?” “Let’s pack a bag and go somewhere new.” If you’re up for adventure, bags packed, destination unknown, the Korail lines go to just enough places for you to show up at the station, look at the train times, and simply hop on the next train. One of my most memorable train trips was when a friend and I did just that. “Off to Gwangju we go!”
Whether traveling with a friend, alone, or in small groups, the train caters to all. Just push your foot down on the lever and rotate your seats around to face the ones in front or behind you and you instantly have a cozy travel experience for four. On a train from Jeonju to Suncheon, this knee-touching experience facilitated group storytelling, laughter, and an intense game of Kindle scrabble.
The train serves not only as a great place for building friendships, but also as a great place to experience Korean culture and hospitality. While visiting me in Korea, my mother and her friend took a train from Yongsan to Jeonju. During their journey they were asked to switch their seats with a family who wanted to sit together. I’m not quite sure how they all communicated, but in the end, the family generously thanked them with a package of dried squid. Because they were less familiar with a culture where dried squid acts as both snack and gift, I can’t guarantee any of the squid was actually eaten. That being said, it remains a special memory for them. Those newly arrived visitors to Korea will also be impressed by Korail staff’s sense of style and professionalism. I still remember thinking how odd yet respectful it was seeing them do a full bow as the entered and exited each new train car. Welcome! Thank you! See you again!
Although I have a good sense of direction and understanding of basic Korean language, I’m thankful to the many Korean people who have had the courage to speak English with a stranger, pointed me in the right direction and maybe even shared a fruit or two. I’ve learned Korean transportation tends to run on time, so, a tip if you’re running late, you really do need to run! But don’t worry, after the stairs and stares you may have experienced while running through the station (as long as you bought that first class KTX ticket) there’s a vending machine with free water just waiting to refresh you.
By the end of a trip, you will see photos of sticky notes or boards on my camera. These are the timetables and schedules that got me to my destination and back home again. Years from now, they will be nothing more than seemingly random numbers and “Hangeul,” but they will remind me that it was more than sunsets, smiles and city streets; it was a journey.

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