Home > Life > Korean traffic: a matter of life and death

Korean traffic: a matter of life and death

As I was walking to Home plus last night an ambulance wove its way through the stationary traffic on one side of large junction near the supermarket. Its siren was blaring, its lights flashing, its horn beeping. When it reached the front of the waiting cars, none of the traffic coming in from the left hand side immediately in front of it would let it cross and turn left (Koreans drive on the right, remember). As I walked up beside the ambulance I saw a paramedic through the window giving someone chest compressions. The traffic coming from the left continued to ignore the ambulance while the patient inside was presumably on the verge of dying. About half a minute later the lights changed, but the ambulance still had to race against the other vehicles turning left.

I had my camera with me and I was very tempted to film this, but there was someone standing next to me and it was cold – and I didn’t really think of it soon enough.

Traffic lights in Korea are taken more as guidelines than rules. It’s very common for drivers to turn right at a red. They’ll often speed through a newly turned red light beeping their horns to warn other road users. I’ve seen the aftermath of a couple of traffic accidents at the same junction near Home plus and the thought that occurred to me was, They obviously didn’t beep their horns loud or long enough.

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Categories: Life
  1. Maxim Reality
    26 January 2007 at 1:28 am

    “It’s very common for drivers to turn right at a red.”.

    Of course, it is as it’s perfectly LEGAL, just like in the USA. Get your facts right next time, before you start complaining.

  2. 26 January 2007 at 5:09 am

    Strange as it may seem, there are people in the world who aren’t from the US. In the UK, a red light means stop – full stop (period). My observation (not a complaint) was perfectly valid for a Briton whose audience is mainly other Britons. Fair enough, I didn’t know it was legal, although I suspected as much.

  3. Maxim Reality
    29 January 2007 at 10:39 am

    That said all the other traffic rules seem to be more like guidelines here and are rarely enforced so you have your point in the original post. I just feel foreigners are complaining things too much they don’t know much about. Last time I checked you Londoners didn’t even seem to care whether to drive on the right side of the road or not! 🙂

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