Beyond Borders

Who needs a car?

2011-03-25 13:05
Lebogang Mogashoa

Lebogang Mogashoa

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

I was on the bus the other day when the driver stopped at the red traffic lights and lit a cigarette. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen it happen but it still galled me.

“Who the hell does he think he is? What are we supposed to do, twiddle our thumbs until he decides he’s had enough nicotine for the rest of the trip?” I thought. Like a professional, he was back in the driving seat seconds before the lights turned green. He’d obviously done that sort of thing before.

That he brought with him a suffocating plume of smoke didn’t seem to matter to him or the other passengers. “What is this?” I thought. “The high school boys’ bathroom?” I hated that I didn’t know the proper Korean and courage to express my indignation.  

Four weeks ago I needed to renew my alien registration card. On my way back from the immigration office, feeling like I’d been through the washing cycle twice, I took what had proven (the day before on a failed renewal mission) to be a one way bus back to my neighbourhood. An hour into the ride, the driver stopped the vehicle and yelled at me.

I gathered from the tone of his voice, a few easily understood words and his hand movements that I needed to get off the bus. There was no one to explain the perplexing turn of events, so, I pouted and did what I was asked.

Then what happened

Outside, in the middle of nowhere, probably home to wild animals lurking behind the tall dry grass, I wondered where I’d gone wrong as a human being and a regular bus passenger. A quarter of an hour later, another bus approached. It was the same number as its predecessor but it followed the expected path and the earlier event remained a mystery.
I’ve ended up in exactly the opposite of the place I needed to visit because the two areas essentially had the same name and I’d intoned improperly. I have seen people choose to stay on their feet for more than an hour instead of sitting next to a foreigner on the bus. The list goes on.
But with all my little gripes and misunderstandings, I sometimes think I insist on staying here for the public transportation. South Korea has hands down the better transport system compared to South Africa.

There’s a sense that the government actually cares about convenient citizen movement. Even if it might just be to cart them from one spending play-house to the other. People are not left to their own devices like millions of South Africans are.

Public transport easier than cars

You wouldn’t know it with the chicken entrails of traffic into Seoul on weekends but Koreans ultimately don’t need cars. Some families maybe, but the few times I went to Seoul in a friend’s car, the normally forty-minute trip (by bus or subway) took a total of three hours. The whole thing was an argument against car ownership. I just need to travel with a family of four to complete my hypothesis.

In Korea you can wake up on a Saturday morning and decide to take a three hour trip to a different region without having to think too much about the logistics. There’s no need to plan ahead or book one of only two daily Greyhounds from one province to another.

It’s thrilling, especially for someone like me, the kind of weirdo who would rather ride a bicycle than drive a car. That I am actually afraid of driving is beside the point.

It’s not that I like to brag about things that don’t belong to me; my eyes have been opened to the possibilities. Someone from our transport department needs to sell their BMW (or whatever the latest luxury symbol car is) and spend a few months in Korea to see how convenient things could be.

- Read Lebogang's blog Ramen Ranch.

Send your comments to Lebogang

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.


What the Gupta man saw

2017-11-19 05:51

What the Gupta man saw

2017-11-19 05:51

SHARE: publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.