I wouldn’t pass a driver’s test in Korea. Not because I am incapable of pressing the gas and turning the wheel–but because it’s almost been 5 months (!) and I still don’t understand the traffic laws.
There are crosswalks with blinking red and green walking men telling you when it’s safe. But those are only guidelines and don’t really guarantee your safety because while the vehicles may have a red light, it seems to only apply to citizens.
From what I’ve seen, red lights don’t apply to buses, taxis or motorcycles (especially McDonalds delivery guys).
You may be in the middle of the street with little green guy comes on, completely stable, and bus 92 will come rolling down and I’ve literally had stare downs like
He’ll slide into the middle of the intersection and kindly wait
I’ve only been in one almost bus accident–and it was essentially a chicken fight with another bus. Both decided that the red light was optional and there was a looooooong honk and a sudden stop that threw the poor standers into each other like hitting chimes.
Taxis are only slightly better. I’ve had taxis drive around me as I’m crossing the street.
It’s not the best experience when you’re the one crossing, but when you’re in the taxi it’s actually quite convenient. When you tell the taxi driver palli caseyo like I did yesterday to get to a certain fansigning, a 15 minute drive took 6 minutes.
Delivery motorcycles are everywhere. You can essentially get anything delivered to your doorstep here. Not just pizza and chinese food, but fried chicken, Lotteria, and yes, even McDonalds.
These guys just s-curve around you Need for Speed status. Forget sky-diving instructor, if you’re a thrill seeker become a delivery guy in Korea. They risk their lives and the lives of others multiple times a day.
And that’s just intersection etiquette.
As for the driving itself, speed limit signs aren’t really a thing. There are some, but they are not every 100 feet like in the States, and I’ve never seen someone pulled over for speeding.
No, the signs I’ve seen are more just passive aggressive suggestions.
It’s almost like everyone just decided on a speed limit and it’s kept as a social standard. Like, “this road is windy, we should probably only go 20mph (or whatever in kmph). Or this is a four lane, we can probably go 60.
Well, you’re a taxi, so you can go 80. Or 90. I’ll let you go around me because palli palli.
Now, I can’t say this is true for everywhere. This has just been my experience as a foreigner living in Suwon for 5 months.
I know that while walking along the highway 4km to the cherry blossom festival because of the 5 hour traffic jam, I passed a sign.
And by my old place, there was one of those electronic signs that made a smiley face when you were going an appropriate speed and a frowny face when you were going too fast.
So they do exist to some extent, but I don’t think it’s enforced nearly as much as the States.
No, braving the streets in Korea is one of those you just hope and pray goes well.