SEOUL - Woo Se-kwang begins his weekdays by checking the train schedule on his smartphone before leaving home. After a 10-minute walk, the 52-year-old office worker arrives at the subway station and taps a smartcard on the ticketing panel, then looks up at a large screen where moving dots show where the next train is in real-time.
"Exactly on time as usual," Woo says as he starts his 40-kilometer daily commute from Incheon to Jamsil, Seoul.
The train service not only allows him to avoid traffic jams and save time.
"I like to read books and sometimes I enjoy searching new business items on the Web and organise my ideas on the train. It really helps get myself ready before work," he says.
A ride offers a glimpse into the diverse faces of urban life.
Teenagers in school uniforms play games on fancy smartphones while some passengers nod off as warm air wafts from the heater. Young ladies look furtively at mirrors to fix their makeup, and Japanese tourists stare curiously at an advertisement featuring two contrasting pictures of a woman before and after plastic surgery. Self-appointed preachers, peddlers of cheap goods and inconsiderate passengers watching TV with the volume up loud sometimes raise the eyebrows of commuters.
"Everyone here has something to do that would be impossible on a bus or in a car," Woo says.
The intercity train runs on the nation's first metro line that opened 40 years ago. Ferrying citizens between the bustling capital and the western port city, the train service has served as an artery for greater Seoul.
Seoul's subway system has since grown into one of the world's largest metro networks with a 6.9 million-ridership daily. Computers have made train and station operations even more efficient. Ticketing and times can be checked on mobile gadgets. Wireless connections allow riders to work, play, and communicate inside the cars.