News / Asia

South Korea Rolls Out Nationwide Address Change to Mixed Reviews

Koreans go about their business in central Seoul, South Korea, December 19, 2010.
Koreans go about their business in central Seoul, South Korea, December 19, 2010.
Jason Strother

The South Korean government is trying to make giving directions a little easier.

Small blue placards featuring new addresses have been hung up on every building around the country.

They are replacing an older address system some say was not very helpful without a map.  But public reaction so far has been mixed to the new building numbers. Some in Korea say the change means a loss of cultural heritage.

Taxi driver Hong Jae-do punches an address into his dashboard-mounted GPS navigator. He has been a cabbie for about four years and says his job would be really hard without this device.

Hong says he relies on his GPS whenever he cannot find an address. Without it, he said he would have a really tough time, especially when he has to travel outside of Seoul.

Japanese model

One reason blamed for the difficulty in navigating is Korea’s address system. It is modeled on the Japanese system, which assigns addresses chronologically instead of geographically. In other words, buildings are numbered according to when they were built - not according to where they are located on a street.

But this complex system soon will be a thing of the past.

A TV commercial introduces viewers to Korea’s new address system, which the government here says will make it easier and quicker to order out food, send packages and get help in case of an emergency.

The new system is more Western-style, using only a building’s number, street and city.

Dual usage of the old and new system will be permitted until December 2013. That is when the Japanese-style addresses will be officially abandoned.  

Buddhist opposition

But not everyone is excited about the new system. And, some of the strongest opposition comes from Buddhists.

Monks at Seoul’s Jogye Temple petitioned the government to hold off on using the new system.

Monk To-gyoung explained why his order opposes some of the addresses. He said there are areas and roads that are closely related to Buddhism. He said the monks are protesting because the names of these places are disappearing with the new address system, and they feel they are losing their heritage.  

He said the monks do not oppose the new address system in general. They are only asking the government to not change the names of the roads that have a Buddhist connection.

Hopeful business owners

Officials of the South Korean Ministry of Public Administration and Security, the government body in charge of the new addresses, declined to be interviewed. But a spokeswoman said that the ministry is still working out the problems of implementing the new system.

Some business owners say the new building numbers could bring in more customers.

Yeon-il is the 70-year-old owner of a tea house located on a small alley in one of Seoul’s busy tourist neighborhoods. She is glad to see the old system go, she says, but is not getting her hopes up yet about the new street addresses.  

She also says because of the way the old address system works, people do have a tough time finding her shop; sometimes, they walk right by it. But she says she is not so sure if the new system will make things any easier because there are so many small alleys in this neighborhood and all around the country. People need to be given clear directions, she says, and look for landmarks to know where to go.

Yeon-il points out that if people could not find what they were looking for under the old system, they still probably will not be able to find it now, no matter what numbers appear by the front door.






You May Like

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs