Sign in Jamshil (Seoul, South Korea): walking on the left side of the street is WRONG CULTURE, and due to Japanese occupation

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The other day I came across a sign on the side of the street exhorting Koreans to please walk on the right side of the sidewalk instead of the left. First take a look at the images, and my translation is below.

The sign makes the argument that Korea used to walk on the right side and it was the Japanese occupation that changed that. To verify this we'll have to take a look at some old pictures of Seoul. The Japanese occupation officially began in 1905. Here's one from the late 19th century showing people adhering slightly more to the left, and here's another one from the 19th century with people on the left.

That said, two pictures is not a substantial amount of data, so I won't draw any conclusions about who walked where in Seoul in the 19th century just yet.

And now to the pictures:

이제는 우측보행입니다 - From now on it's walking on the right.

인간의 보행은 삶의 기본으로 신체 발달 특성과 어울려 편하고 안전해야 합니다. 그러나 우리나라의 '좌측보행'은 일제에 의해 강압적으로 바뀌어 우측성향을 가진 인간의 생활 편리성을 묵과한 채 오늘까지 이어져 왔습니다. - Walking is a basic part of life and has to be comfortable and safe in accordance with the developmental characteristics of the body. But Korea was forcefully changed during the Japanese occupation to one where people tend to walk on the left, and has continued until today to overlook comfort in the lives of people.

우리 몸에는 우측보행이 맞아요 - Walking on the right side is right for our bodies

미국, 캐나다, 독일, 오스트리아, 영국을 비롯한 대부분의 국가에서는 신체발달상 오른손잡이가 많은 점을 고려해 '우측보행'을 기본 보행방법으로 삼고 있습니다. 빌딩의 회전문이나 공항 출입구, 에스컬레이터, 지하철 개찰구 등 생활시설물이 모두 오른쪽으로 움직이는 것 또한 대부분 국가에서 적용하고 있는 국가적 관습에 맞춰진 것입니다. - Most countries including the US, Canada, Germany and Austria see walking on the right as a basic part of walking due to the large number of right-handedness in the development of the human body. The revolving doors in buildings, airport entrances, escalators, subway gates and so on all move on the right, and most countries have this applied in accordance with national habits.

좌측보행은 잘못된 보행문화 - Walking on the left is incorrect walking culture

우리 국민이 외국에 나가 길을 걸을때 외국인과 자주 부딛히고 외국인이 우리나라에서 이런 불편을 겪는 것은 바로 이와 같은 잘못된 보행문화 때문입니다. 사회적 혼란을 불러오고 국가경쟁력에도 장애가 되고 있는 좌측보행문화, 이제는 바뀌어야 합니다. - The reason why Koreans when they go abroad often collide with foreigners and why foreigners here in Korea encounter these inconveniences is because of this mistaken walking culture. Walking on the left, which brings social chaos and handicaps the competitiveness of a country, must now be changed.

우측보행! 송파구가 앞장서서 실천합니다. - Walking on the right! Songpa-gu (the part of the city where Jamshil is located) is moving ahead to put it into practice.

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