Luggage restrictions on trains hint at rising quality of life in North Korea

Luggage regulations for North Korea's railway system
Luggage regulations for North Korea’s railway system. Image: Daily NK

According to a North Korean train timetable acquired by Daily NK on February 17 and produced by the Railway Publishing House, there are new baggage limits in place across the country.

Passengers can only take a single bag weighing less than 20 kg and the bags must be able to fit in baggage racks and not block passageways. Handbags that weigh more than 20 kg are not permitted.

South Korea’s KTX train system allows passengers to carry on two bags weighing less than 30 kg, and these bags must not be placed on seats.

North Korean passengers are further prohibited from carrying on bags that can easily catch fire, explosives, bags that pollute or dirty the train cars or other passengers’ items, animals, bags carrying poison or emitting a smell, or bags that harm the health of other train riders or the operation of the train.

The regulations state that pets in cages that are less than 50 cm in width and height can be carried on by passengers. Given that North Koreans rarely raise pet dogs, one can only guess the reason for this regulation.

“There are very few people who carry two or three big bags onto trains,” said a Pyongyang-based source. “More and more people are choosing to send their luggage through vans.”

Defectors say that during the famine years of the 1990s and 2000s, there were items placed in train passengers’ bags that are hard to imagine today.

People would, for example, transport chemicals, thinners and other dangerous items on trains and even carry on pieces of dead, smelly fish that caused disputes between train riders and train officials.

“Nowadays, people’s lives have gotten better so there are few who carry around several bags at a time. The train officers don’t have to scream at people so much anymore,” a source in North Hamgyong Province concluded.