You turn the corner and see a bunch of cars parked on the sidewalk. You move out of the way as a scooter drives on that same sidewalk that you’re walking on. You see a one way street that has a truck driving the wrong way to make a stop. While you may think this is happening in some of the worst neighborhoods in the world, this is something you can find in Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea. Seoul is probably the safest big city I’ve ever been to, so this has nothing to do with something you would find in a run down area. But citizens of the Special City, as well as the rest of South Korea, have a reputation as being some of the worst drivers in the world. So one may wonder, what are the rules for driving in Seoul? Not as in what does a Korean driver’s manual say is the rules for driving, but what are the rules you need to practice to stay safe while in driving in Seoul?
There’s Only 1 Rule You Need to Follow
To make this article short and sweet, the rule you need to remember is that the bigger vehicle wins. That’s right, if your vehicle is bigger, you have the right of way. Here is how things work in the real world of Seoul:
If you’re walking down a sidewalk and a scooter is coming, the scooter wins. Get out of the way.
If a scooter is driving and a car is coming, the scooter gets out of the way.
If a car is driving and a truck is coming, the car gets out of the way.
If a bus is coming, everyone gets out of the way.
While I’m joking, in a large way, I’m being serious. Why is this the case? If you are in the United States and have been to Brooklyn, New York, you may understand this better. In some parts of Brooklyn, you can only park on the right side of the street on some days. Other days, you have to park on the other side of the street. Why is this? Because when some of the streets of Brooklyn were designed, cars were smaller and the number of cars were a lot less than what we see now. The streets are not designed for modern traffic, and you cannot knock down buildings or take away sidewalks to make bigger roads. If that’s true for Brooklyn, in a country that is less than 500 years old, what is to be expected of Seoul, a city that is over 2,000 years old?
While the driving is Seoul may seem crazy, you could go from a modern and wide street, to a small one way street in less than 5 seconds. You have to be able to adapt quickly while driving. The truth is crazy drivers can be found anywhere, not just in Asia. But Asia has had people living it it for a much longer time that places like North America. While knowing the history of a place won’t excuse what you see, it will likely explain it to you so you can deal with it better.