Three service interruptions in three days on the KTX last weekend are fueling concerns over the safety of the bullet trains.
A KTX train carrying some 400 passengers stopped abruptly in the 9.975-km-long Hwanghak Tunnel between Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang Province, and Yeongdong, North Chungcheong Province, at around 11 a.m. on Sunday.
A KORAIL spokesman said the train was stopped due to faults in the motor block that supplies power to the wheels. Passengers were trapped in the dark tunnel for over an hour, and the train finally arrived at Seoul Station at 1:40 p.m., nearly two hours late.
Disruptions continued as subsequent Busan-Seoul trains were delayed by about half an hour.
On another KTX train that left Busan for Seoul at 1:45 p.m., the air conditioning system broke down 15 minutes after departure. Over 800 passengers had to travel in steaming hot coaches for two hours, until they were transferred to another train in Daejeon when KORAIL decided that the problem could not be fixed.
Earlier on Friday, some 150 passengers had to be evacuated from a KTX Sancheon when smoke started coming out of the train as it pulled into Milyang Station in South Gyeongsang Province at 11:30 a.m.
Following a series of accidents including a derailment earlier this year, KORAIL announced that it would submit the KTX to comprehensive safety inspection by external experts, but disruptions and accidents continue. KTX trains have stopped 36 times so far this year due to mechanical faults.