Friday, September 2, 2005

Seoul trying to curtail driving amid high oil prices

It's no secret that U.S. President Bush is highly unpopular in South Korea, and most of that is related to a strong sense of worry and dread thanks to the synergy of fear between the War in Iraq and his "Axis of Evil" comments.

But fearing a war on the Korean peninsula is not the only reason to dislike Bush. Many people blame the elective war for skyrocketing oil prices, which means everyday Koreans are paying every day for the war they think was a fiasco to begin with.

Gas prices are through the roof and as they threaten to get higher and higher, this could put a crimp on the Korean economy, the world's fourth-largest buyer of crude oil and a nation that depends entirely on imports for its oil needs. According to a Bank of Korea estimate, "a one-percent rise in oil prices would trim 0.02 percentage point off the nation's economic growth."

For that reason, Seoul is reported to be
pushing to give motorists tax and other incentives to prod them to drive less. As part of the move, the government is revamping efforts to get people to leave their cars home at least one business day per week (you may have noticed the round, colored stickers with one day of the week printed on them).

Other ideas appear to be encouraging people to leave the cars at home or in parking lots near public transportation. The good news is that they're trying to use incentives (like lower insurance premiums) rather than mandatory action, since they acknowledge some people simply can't change their driving habits without hardship.

I only hope that the Korean government will rescind the decision to jack up car taxes for LP-gas-powered nine-passenger minivans (like mine, coincidentally), which has led Kia and Hyundai to start producing eleven-passenger minivans that would consume even more fuel!


  1. A major contrast between Japan and Korea I found was that no matter how great the public transport system is in Korea they just love their cars. I heard that the public transport usage rate in Tokyo was 70% whereas in Seoul it is lower than 50%. They don't know how lucky they are...

  2. Even until the early 1990s it wasn't like that at all. Almost everybody took buses, subways, or taxis.

    Come to think of it, the survey you mention might not include taxis as public transport. In Korea, especially in big cities, taxis are cheap enough and common enough that they are a form of public transport, sometimes cheaper than taking a bus. If those are including, Korea might come to more than 70%.

    And since the taxis are all LPG, it's not such a pollution or oil burden.

  3. avg gas price for regular oil is $3 around my town. just a year it was under $2.. i usually get super or what ever it's called for my car and when i filled it up few days ago, total came up to around $43..unbelievable..

  4. I eat Babies, this is where?

    It's kind of funny that people in the U.S. complain about gas prices reaching the levels they're at, since gasoline across Western Europe, Japan, Korea, etc., have been at those levels for a long time already.

    Of course, I'm not saying, "Ha!" to that since the U.S. economy developed around $1 to $1.50 gasoline and any dramatic change like this can put a huge burden on the economy. It is not a good thing and it's definitely not something I'm happy about.

    I wonder if we need to count this as part of the hidden cost of Bush's War in Iraq, since this seems to be directly related to the instability started that came about when he invaded.

    Anyway, thanks to foolish government decisions to curtail LPG usage (they think rich people are buying large LPG vehicles to cheat high gasoline prices), it routinely costs about $43 (the Korean equivalent) to fill up my Kia Carnival (Sedona in the U.S.) with the butane it craves.

  5. " I eat Babies, this is where?
    gas stations in encinitas, san diego.

    I've been aware of high gas prices in europe and asia compare to the states as I've lived and travled to the aforementioned continents frequently, the post was more of me venting my frustation as the war in iraq has led to surge in oil prices contray to what the bush admin officals said would happen once iraq has been occupied or "freed".

    you drive a minivan? kushibo=soccer dad? since my car(lexus es 330) is pretty fuel efficent I shouldn't complain too much but the oil price has jumped so much..maybe i should get one of those hybrid cars

  6. Oh, that's right, you're in the San Diego area. It's the weekend and my brain automaticall goes on a "low" setting.

    For the record, the minivan does not make me a soccer dad, although people in Seoul have asked me if I secretly had a wife and kids somewhere.

    No, no wife and no kids, as far as I'm aware. The minivan purchase was because I used to have to drive around a lot of people (especially co-workers), the environmentally friendly LPG vehicles only came in seven-seat or more vehicles (the Korean Carnival/Sedona is officially a nine-seater, although I ripped one out), and I like to be able to take naps in my car when I have weird work schedules, and the middle and back rows fold down into a double-size bed.

    I love my pimped-out black sport minivan.

  7. "I love my pimped-out black sport minivan."
    I can only chuckle at the thought of kushibo crusing around seoul in low rider minivan fitted gold rims,decals, vinyl, rear wings..
    ah i can use that as the basis for kushibo caricature! teeheehee!

  8. "I love my pimped-out black sport minivan."

    I can only chuckle at the thought of kushibo crusing around seoul in low rider minivan fitted gold rims,decals, vinyl, rear wings..
    ah i can use that as the basis for kushibo caricature! teeheehee!

    Not quite as described, but it does have the rear spoiler above rear opening and its got the built-in TV with a slot for a VCR or DVD player, the leather steering wheel and (automatic) gear shift, the moonroof for passengers to stick their head out and scream as you're driving down the 팔팔 at 120 kph.

    We did think about getting gold rims, but settled for a silver-colored, supposedly "alloy" rims instead.

    That's not a lot of bling bling, but I think it's pretty damn decked out for a space heater on wheels.

    As Hank Hill might call it, it's a propane accessory.


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