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Operator to remove billboards from subway platforms

Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit, the operator of subway lines No. 5 to 8, said Friday that it will remove billboards from subway platforms in response to claims that they hamper emergency exits for passengers during safety accidents.

Of the 3,180 billboards at some 145 stations on subway lines No. 5-8, a total of 1,093 or 34 percent will be removed by the end of August, according to the operator. Instead, some 6,200 emergency exits will be installed by 2020.

Billboards, which expose advertising content to millions of daily passengers, have been creating a yearly profit amounting to 1.5 billion won ($1.3 billion) for SMRT. By eliminating them, the operator is expected to face operating losses of up to 7 billion won for the next five years.

“We will implement the installation of emergency exits despite the costs, as we put passengers’ safety before our profits,” said Kim Tae-ho, CEO of SMRT, in a statement.

“Considering the limits in our financial resources, we hope that the government will offer support.”

While the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport will redeem 40 percent of the budget, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and SMRT will cover the remaining 60 percent by each covering 30 percent.

Changing some 9,000 existing doors at subway platforms into emergency exits will cost approximately over 24.5 billion won, officials said.

Meanwhile, another subway operator Seoul Metro, which runs subway lines No. 1 to 4 said that it is “physically difficult to remove all billboards due to contract with screen door companies by 2028.”

By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)
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