A very present danger living in Seoul: Part 1

During my time here in South Korea it has been a pleasure, most of the time, for I have found Koreans, mostly accommodating and kind, especially to foreigners. But one thing really nags me – it’s those times that I am just walking along the pavement, minding my own business, when suddenly, “woooooooooooooshhhhhhhhhhh!” Something just nearly hit me as it drove past me! It was obviously a motorized vehicle with a rider – I could just read some of the writing on the back container from a sticker plastered across its paintwork: I read the words, “Chicken” and I saw a cartoon picture of a chicken which looked like the guy in the picture just below.

The kind of bikes you might encounter on the pedestrian sidewalks.

I wanted to shout, “Hey, Dude, don’t you know: there are public highways which are designed for riders like yourself but this is a public byway for pedestrians. Why do you insist on riding your motor-bike on a walkway when you are most obviously TERRORIZING WALKERS – LIKE ME?”

Has this experience ever happened to you?
I would love to hear your experience.
What do you think – do you think like me that this is dangerously compromising public safety?
The reason I ask is because I have more than a hunch that this problem is a scourge – a virus that has spread throughout the culture and psyche of South Koreans. I realize that this kind of action has cultural undertones – I mean this kind of scenario happens at every set of lights every single day of the year, and is happening now, and that it has become adopted into Korean culture, which is very disconcerting, and makes me even want to warn foreigners to be careful about walking outside, because walking in Korea is actually a dangerous pastime; what do you think?


My Other Story
Even this week, I was out walking with my ten year old son, when a motorcycle “whoooooooosed” past us at top speed. My son was just a few meters behind me but that motorcycle drove past at breakneck speed and, half the problem is, even though he may have seen us, I didn’t see him until it was too late, because they are going, usually at breakneck speed! At the same time, there was a police officer standing duty who, that cyclist past just one or two meters from him, but didn’t flinch an eye in response; and so, I walked up to him, and after checking in my emotions to make sure there was no anger in my demeanor, I said in Korean, “Police Officer, that motorcyclist that just past was so dangerous!”

He replied, “Yes. Okay!”

That’s all he said. It seemed that one of his briefs was not stopping motorcyclists breaking the law – but I do wander, why not? After all, it is illegal for motorcyclists to be on the byway; and it’s also illegal for them to drive through red lights – but to them, it looks like second nature – and it looks like the police accept it as well, but where does that leave us unprotected pedestrians?
Can anyone help?
Unfortunately, the re-education has to come from the top downwards.Chris Matheson
A few years ago one of my students was actually a Chief Constable of my area where I live, and I asked why the Police Officers in Korea do not enforce the Law. He ensured me that his force will make sure that the motorcyclists do not ride their motorcyclists on the pavement.
But now, more than five years later, after my conversation with the Chief Constable, the problem has only got worse, and I fear, even more ingrained into the Korean psyche.

Blog, Culture, Living

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