South Korea in the Perspective of a Filipino Expatriate

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bumblebee Out, Ecobee In- Riding South Korea’s First Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) Train

As a Transformers fan, I am always curious how it feels like riding Bumblebee. I mean, come on, how you would not dare adore this cute yellow machine that transforms into an even more adorable autobot with shouting yellow color. While it is not possible for me to experience Bumblebee’s altmode of a compact car, South Korea has this thing called Ecobee.

Ecobee- Korea's Maglev train
Ecobee- Korea's Maglev train

Well, first and foremost, I would like to clarify that Ecobee is not a rip off of Bumblebee. It’s entirely different creation and they have no connections with each other except that they are both yellow. Ecobee is a name derives from a combination of “Eco-friendly” and “bee”. It is named that way to let people know that the maglev train is a friend to the environment. As to how it is named after a bee, I don’t know, maybe because it’s yellow and it is somehow looks like a bee.


South Korea’s Maglev train has been officially opened to the public on February 3, 2016 for free. Once we learned about this, riding Ecobee has been officially on my bucket list as well as to my equally adventurous friends who were as excited as I am. We have decided to be one of the first few people to try it.

The station of Maglev Line at Incheon Internatonal Airport
The station of Maglev Line at Incheon Internatonal Airport
(c) Anny Martinez

During the Lunar New Year, we went as a group to become the first Filipino passengers of Ecobee. Outside the maglev train station, there’s this fun activity area where you can learn the history of production of this newest technology in terms of public transformation.  We learned a lot about Ecobee through the materials they provided. We had fun playing the quiz in the machine, at the end of the game, we won cute ballpen and we learned fun facts about Maglev.


Exhibit area of Maglev train
Exhibit area of Maglev train
(c) Anny Martinez
We learned that Ecobee is actually manufactured by South Korea using their homegrown technology. None of the materials or technology was imported and South Korea is actually planning to sell this kind of technology abroad. According to the information, it has a maximum speed of 110 km per hour and its maximum operational speed is 80 km per hour with an average speed of 30 km per hour.

The Maglev Train station starts at Incheon International Airport. It is small but it’s pretty neat and surprisingly, it’s spacious. There are benches where people can sit down while waiting for the train seeing that it operates every 15 minutes.

We have been riding the subway train for the nth time already but when we stepped our foot at the maglev train, it brought us a different kind of excitement because we knew that right at that moment, we were making history. And it is also pretty challenging because we are about to ride a train in its testing period, a train with no wheels, and a train with no driver. Technically, it’s risky, but for the sake of experience, we were more than excited than afraid.

Maglev Line Time Table
Maglev Line Time Table
(c) Anny Martinez
Since this looks like the testing stage, the maglev train operates to few stations just yet. We passed through six stations which are Long-Term Parking, Combined Government Office, International Business Complex, Waterpark and Yongyu. Aside from the modern looking stations, the view while transferring from one station to another is something I could sell to the passengers of Maglev train. Magnificent is just an understatement and for people like us who love nature, we enjoyed the 20 minutes ride from Incheon International Airport to Yongyu station, and vice versa.

Inside the Maglev train
Inside the Maglev train
(c) Anny Martinez
The Maglev train has no driver. It is completely automated. So I appointed myself as an imaginary driver of our trip. I went to the area where the driver is supposed to operate. I like how I am standing there looking at the road in the perspective of the driver.


Taking the driver's seat at the unmanned Megalev train
(c) Anny Martinez


All throughout the duration of the trip, I can hardly hear any noise or vibration. The trip was generally smooth and I completely felt safe even it is unmanned. Thanks to the absence of wheels that made the trip even more comfortable because the train runs 8 mm over the rail. Ecobee is small with only 2 carriages and can carry up to 230 passengers.

Maglev train running 8 mm above the rail
Maglev train running 8 mm above the rail
At the end of the day, we were happy campers because we can finally scratch this out of our bucket list and we just enjoyed the simple experience of riding a Maglev train of South Korea. This is so far the second country to successfully develop this kind of technology after Japan launched the first Maglev train way back 2005.

10 comments:

  1. Wow, this Ecobee looks about a thousand times better than our public transit options in Chicago. We have CTA buses which hardly run on time, which is so frustrating. And our elevated trains are typically pretty gross and are often stopped because of track delays and tracks that are under construction.

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  2. I can just see how far technology has brought us to many wonders and advancements. I’m a fan of the movie Transformers and I love the color of the Ecobee train. I can’t even imagine riding a train without a driver.

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  3. How cool! This looks like such a neat travel experience. When I lived in the city I would travel by subway a lot which I enjoyed. Great trying different things besides driving.

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  4. The Ecobee train sounds amazing! And such a smoother ride than the public transportation we have here in Orlando. I love that it is also eco-friendly, what an all around great train!

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  5. This sounds so futuristic! My city relies heavily on cars, and I wish more people could get on board with mass transit! (pun only slightly intended) Great post!

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  6. This train looks like it will go bullet fast. Love how clean it looks!

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  7. Technology has indeed come a long way. No more rickety train rides, uncomfortable seats and long commutes. I love how these Maglev trains transport passengers in a safe, fast and comfortable way. I hope I could see more of these trains in other Asian cities!

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  8. This looks like a great way to travel. I would love to take some trips on this thing and definitely some pictures! I love the color and the name! I would like to see some more of these trains out this way!

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  9. That is so cool! It does totally look like Bumblebee haha, but I'll bet it's more fun to ride in. Great for getting places!

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