Rail Report: First Class on the KTX from Jeonju Station to Suncheon, South Korea

In this report, we’ll experience the First Class car of a KTX-Sancheon train on a short hop from Jeonju to Suncheon. We’ll also take a close look at Jeonju Station itself – from the plaza outside to the platforms within.

Note: The rail journey described in this travel report took place on 25 January 2020. Fares, timetables, train hardware, station facilities and other details may change anytime without prior notice.

This journey was the second leg of a round trip between Suncheon and Jeonju. Click here to read my report covering the first leg, which also includes a detailed look at Suncheon Station (my initial departure point).

OVERVIEW

Country : Republic of Korea (South Korea)
Railway company : KORAIL
Service type : High-Speed Rail
Service name/designation : KTX 711
Rolling stock : KTX-Sancheon
Travel class : First
Line used : Jeolla Line
Origin : Jeonju Station (dep. 14:00)
Destination : Suncheon Station (arr. 14:59)
Journey time : 59 minutes
Date of journey : Saturday, 25 January 2020

ROUTE

THE EXPERIENCE

The rail journey we’re about to describe was the second leg of a round trip between Suncheon and Jeonju. I was staying in Suncheon at the time and decided to visit Jeonju on a day trip: easily done since high-speed KTX services can cover the distance in under an hour.

You can learn more about the first leg (from Suncheon to Jeonju) in my separate report covering that journey. Just as the present post discusses Jeonju Station in some detail, that previous post looks closely at Suncheon Station, showing what the building looks like and outlining some of the facilities available to passengers.

Finally, if you’d like to learn more about intercity rail travel in Korea (especially on the KTX), click here to see my previous Rail Reports documenting KORAIL’s long-distance train services.

Step 1: Make your way to Jeonju Station

If you’re heading to or from Jeonju’s famous Hanok Village – the old quarter where many of the city’s historic landmarks are located – it’s worth bearing in mind that Jeonju Station (전주역) is a considerable distance away.

Forget about walking – use the local bus network or hail a cab. I’d strongly recommend downloading KakaoMap and/or Naver Map (two widely used Korean wayfinding apps) and using them to search for the most convenient bus route or to generate a taxi fare estimate. I’ll provide further details re: public transport (specifically buses) in a separate report covering my day trip to Jeonju.

For my part, I hopped onto a city bus and made my way back to the city’s transportation hub after a splendid day at the Hanok Village.

Let’s head inside and move on to the next step.

Step 2: Buy your train ticket

Ticket machines are available at major train stations. The catch: not all of them take cash, and the ones that accept cards might take only plastic issued locally (i.e., by Korean banks or Korean branches of foreign banks).

Fortunately, Jeonju Station was fitted with ticket machines that accept cash payments, so I was able to book my ride to Suncheon without having to queue at a manned counter.

17,400 won got me a seat to Suncheon in the First Class compartment of the KTX 711, scheduled to depart at 14:00. An Economy Class ticket on the same train would have cost just 12,400 won, but the small difference seemed well worth paying for a little extra comfort.

Step 3: Relax in the station whilst waiting for your train

Easier said than done, perhaps … especially during peak travel periods like the Seollal (Korean New Year) weekend.

Jeonju is something of a tourist magnet and there were many people in town for the festive season. Although the crowds weren’t exceptionally bad, Jeonju Station’s relatively compact size meant that there wasn’t much space to go around…

…especially in the station’s waiting room. Note that there’s a convenience store on the premises (out of view to the left of the image) so you can stock up on snacks for the upcoming train ride.

Not to worry: there’s another place where you can park yourself if all seats here are taken. We’ll get to that later on.

Step 4: Head for the platform

Let’s cross over to the boarding area from the station building. (Note the pay lockers – useful for those in need of short-term storage.)

Down we go. Unlike the elevated concourse at Suncheon Station, Jeonju Station’s is below ground.

Platform (or “track”) assignments are based on destination. Note that tickets don’t usually state the departure platforms, but if you buy yours from a manned counter, the agent will likely scribble that information down for you.

In my case, the machine-issued ticket bore no platform number so I relied on the station’s digital information boards and static direction signs.

Earlier, I mentioned that there’s an alternative to the station’s waiting area. When you walk along the platform, you’ll eventually come across a glass-walled room fitted with benches and a television screen.

Ahh, peace.

Step 5: Board your train

Today’s service was operated using a KTX-Sancheon train. This type is the second generation of high-speed rolling stock used on the KTX network, with markedly different exteriors and interiors from those of the older first-generation trains.

The following picture is of the entrance to Car 3 of the KTX-Sancheon train I rode from Suncheon to Jeonju earlier in the day, under the service number KTX 742.

Note the retractable step bridging the gap between the train and the platform, as well as the additional steps one would need to negotiate when climbing aboard. If you’re accustomed to riding trains in places like Japan – where carriages stop almost flush with the platform and the floor level is exactly the same between the vehicle and the station – you’ll need a tiny bit of extra caution when using KORAIL services, especially with wheeled luggage or prams in tow.

Step 6: Locate your seat and settle in

Your assigned car and seat number are shown on your ticket. Economy (or Standard) Class compartments are fitted with 4 seats to a row, two on either side of the aisle. Here in First Class, there are just 3 seats to a row – pair on one side, solo on the other.

Let’s have a look at the tray table. Rather than folding down aeroplane-style, it must be pulled upwards out of a slot in the seat back and then lowered into position.

If you’re planning to use your phone or other electronic device, you can plug into the power point down by the floor to keep the battery charged. Both USB ports and Korean-style outlets (two round pins) are available.

Step 7: Enjoy the ride

First Class passengers are offered complimentary snacks and bottled water. On KTX-Sancheon trains like this one, the water is served directly at your seat together with the snack package. On older KTX-I trains, you’ll need to fetch the water yourself from a vending machine next to the First Class compartment (note: it’s still free; the machine won’t require you to insert cash).

The package includes a sweet cookie, mixed nuts, and a moist towelette. Same as this morning’s provisions, and not much different from the pack I received when I took the KTX almost a year prior.

And there we are. Now all that’s left is to lean back, relax, and enjoy the experience as the train bears us towards our destination at high speed.

Cheerio.

2 responses to “Rail Report: First Class on the KTX from Jeonju Station to Suncheon, South Korea

  1. Pingback: Rail Report: First Class on the KTX from Suncheon Station to Jeonju, South Korea | Within striking distance·

  2. Pingback: Field Report: Gyeonggijeon Shrine, Jeonju, South Korea (25 January 2020) | Within striking distance·

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