Public transportation hubs, such as subway stations and airports, and public institutions started a campaign for walking on the right, Thursday.
The campaign is a rehearsal for the “walking on the right” drive that will start in July 2010 nationwide, said the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs.
However, the hasty switch of the walking direction is causing a jumble among pedestrians, including the visually impaired.
Signs in the Seoul subway encourage people by saying that the world walks on the right.
And an official said as much to the Herald in the spring:
"Our studies found that people are psychologically prone to veer right when they walk around; it's also a globally acknowledged mannerism," said Cho Sung-tae, deputy director of the ministry's public administration division.
The ministry unveiled the reform after undertaking thorough traffic-related studies, including pedestrian habits and the expected improvements in the operational efficiency and safety of the nation's traffic conditions.
"We believe changing the law to encourage people to walk to the right and think to the right will help promote social order and improve public traffic safety," Cho said.
The Joongang Ilbo has more:
Signs encouraging people to walk on the right on escalators and moving walkways in the capital’s subway system will displayed as part of a City Hall campaign starting on Oct. 1.
The project will cost 550 million won ($450,081), according to Jeon Gwang-hyeon, an official at the transportation bureau with the city government.
The rationale is that most people in Seoul are not lefties.
“It’s comfortable to keep to the right on roads because most people are right-handed,” said Shin Yong-mok, a senior official at the same bureau.
“Exits in the airports and pedestrian crossings are built for people walking on the right. When people walk on the right side they go 1.2 to 1.7 times faster.”
The move follows a plan put forward by the central government in April to revise laws related to pedestrian traffic.
But inertia is tough, and old habits die hard, writes the Times:
Some question the effectiveness of the drive.
“Seoul Metro has been campaigning for lining up two-by-two at escalators for a while, but it has not been very successful. I think similar things might happen to this campaign,” said Lee Sun-min, a 25-year-old office worker.
“At subway stations, some people walk on the left as they did before and the others walk on the right according to the campaign. Sometimes, I get stuck in the middle of people coming from both my left and right.”
I had assumed it was sort of an anti-Japanese myth---like "Japan changed the spelling from Corea to Korea to make Japan first in alphabetical order---that said the Japanese forced Koreans to walk on the left, but that law did come into effect during the Japanese Occupation; from the Herald again:
The current regulation dictating that pedestrians stick to their left stems from a law enforced in 1921, which obliged both people and vehicles to move along their left side. This law changed in March 1946 and called for all vehicles to travel along the right side.
Another reform in December 1961 reinforced the requirement that everyone should walk to their left, whether on the streets or public areas.
Perhaps next they will legislate against walking with your head turned the other way, changing direction without notice, or using the bottom of an escalator to stop and fucking chat. These public awareness campaigns are a good move---I'm not being facetious---but perhaps what is really necessary is for Seoul to sign Scott Stevens next year to patrol the
These changes are planned for Gwangju's subway and airport as well, though I have yet to see arrows on stairwells or sidewalks or anything. Escalators going up in stores are still on the left side.