Line 1


 I started riding the Line 1 subway when I started living in Incheon from 2013. Symbolized by the ragged, soiled and damp color of blue, Line 1 already had a reputation for being outdated compared to the other lines because its old trains run one of the first railways in Korea, and its routes start from Incheon passing through Guro to Seoul Station and Jongno.

 When traveling to Incheon from Seoul, you will see people with dazed faces waiting for the express train at Yongsan station, who would race for the empty seats when the empty train arrives and opens its doors. With some luck you will find a space to sit on the mold smelling navy blue velvet seats. Then a crippled man who’ve already passed through more than half of the cars would approach and leave a note describing his life story on top of my properly closed knees. I raise my eyes to see if that man is really the same person who was waiting for the train with me. After the man exists, his legs sweeping the floor, only a moment of piece is allowed before a God devoted enthusiast intrudes while shouting incomprehensible words. He is followed by a peddler selling different things by the season, making a scene until he moves onto the next car. People I see every day across the aisle avoid each other’s eyes, praying the time would pass quickly so that they will arrive at their destinations.

 Subway Line 1 runs aboveground from Noryangjin to Incheon and there aren’t any tunnels in that section either. The train takes in the seasons fully as the weathers change, shedding light on the wide range of lives occupying the cars. The sceneries out the window too quickly disappears with the railway speed, and transform into a fascinating abstract painting. Turn the head away from the fatiguing sceneries to the interior of the car and without an exception people of reality have their lips tightly sealed and are staring in space.

 9 am, September 18, 1899, Mogul tank steam locomotive departed from Noryangjin and traveled 33 kilometers to Jemulpo. It was at that moment when the Korean Empire entered the era of railroads. The Gyeongin Line established in early 20th Century by the Japanese imperialists to exploit their colony, was the pipeline delivering western cultures and goods into the heart of Korean Peninsula. When the export driven policies were implemented from the 1960s, the line became the backbone of industrialization and urbanization. Finally in 1974 with implementation of the Gyeongin Line electrification program, the line was named Subway Line 1 and is now a major transportation route in the metropolitan area, shuttling Seoul and Incheon.

 Gyeongin Line still carries people traveling between Incheon and Seoul. Stations built at the time of the railway’s opening still exist as part of the city. While heading to Incheon from Seoul, Line 1 one by one drops off people pushed out of Seoul. As the train approaches Incheon Station, the surrounding buildings become more worn out and their heights lower.

 Only those looking somewhat anxious are left in the car, like some old men going to see the MacArthur statue or the Korean Chinese speaking Korean oddly mixed with Chinese. I exist in the car as part of them. Passengers on Line 1 become a contemporary scenery, appearing like a ghost and disappearing into thin air.

 People who were fiddling with their smart phones as their shoulders bumped into each other, walks away from the Incheon station platform and hastily scatters away. I follow them to meet the lives spread around the railroad tracks. The Korean Chinese return to their wooden houses in China Town while the old men head to the Freedom Park.

 Era is the creator of sceneries. The modern civilization from a century ago gave birth to the sceneries and as the era have changed so did its functions, now producing the new images in the time of early 21st century. Sit still in a space, while it’s unknown whether the space is Seoul or Incheon, and travel back a hundred years and arrive at Jemulpo. The Line 1 names not voiced in Gyeongseong (old name for Seoul) scatter along the routes heading to Seoul to build up their own lives. Walk the 26 stations from Incheon to Noryangjin to find the inevitable encounters disguised as coincidences. Scenes of the era sliding off from the car windows come into firm shapes with their own time and space. Line 1 is a photographic documentation of the lives, moments and sceneries floating around the railroads, captured during the walk of 26 stations in between incheon and Noyrangjin along the Gyeongin Line of 1899, before the Hangang Railroad Bridge was built.

[DATA] Old Map, Gyeonin[Seoul-Incheon] Line, 1918

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