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[Seoul Subway Stories] New subway names with corporate links, another pandemic effect

To cover operating losses amid pandemic, Seoul puts station names up for auction

Company names are in brackets on the signboards of the Euljiro 1-ga Station of Seoul Subway Line No. 2, Jonggak on Line No. 1 and Euljiro 4-ga of Line Nos. 2 and 5. (Seoul Metro)
Company names are in brackets on the signboards of the Euljiro 1-ga Station of Seoul Subway Line No. 2, Jonggak on Line No. 1 and Euljiro 4-ga of Line Nos. 2 and 5. (Seoul Metro)
Starting in March, the signboards at Euljiro 3-ga and Sinyongsan stations in the Seoul Subway will become longer, with respective references to a certain company located at the station. The former will be renamed Euljiro 3-ga Shinhan Card Station and the latter Sinyongsan Amorepacific Station.

The changes are the result of contracts worth 874 million won ($733,000) and 380 million won, respectively, which Seoul Metro has signed with the companies for the sale of naming rights. Under their three-year agreement, all signs at the two stations, as well as route maps and in-car voice broadcasts, will feature the company names in brackets. Necessary work, such as the replacement of the old signboards, will be completed as early as March, officials added. The contract can be extended for another three years.

The two stations are not the first to ink such deals.

Seoul Metro has auctioned off naming rights of several stations since 2016 to raise funds.

On Line No. 2, Euljiro 1-ga has been paired with the Industrial Bank of Korea and Euljiro 4-ga with BC Card, while Apgujeong on Line No. 3 and Yeoksam on Line No. 2 make reference to Hyundai Department Store and Centerfield, respectively, which are key landmarks in the areas where the stations are located.

The total number of stations with such names now stands at 33 with the addition of the Euljiro 3-ga and Sinyongsan stations, Seoul Metro says.

Pandemic effect?

The project of selling station names to brands began in 2016 as a way for the subway operator to make up for chronic operation losses, but it had been on hold since May 2017, following the merger of Seoul Metro and the now-defunct Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit Corp.

The resumption last year was yet another effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In the midst of the virus scare, subway passenger numbers plummeted with schools moving online, companies adopting remote work and people staying home. The state-run corporation’s net loss surged to 1.13 trillion won in 2021 from 586 billion won recorded in 2019, the last year before the pandemic. The figure for 2022 is forecast to reach some 1.8 trillion won, a Seoul Metro official said.

“Adding institutional names to subway signboards will be an effective marketing strategy for companies, especially those located near the stations. There has been a growing demand for it,” the official added, hinting that more station names could go up on the block.

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)
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