|Cars are parked along both sides of an alley in a residential area of Incheon's Namdong District, Nov. 29. Korea Times file|
By Yoon Ja-young
While the number of cars has been increasing steeply over the past decade, parking spaces haven't been growing to meet demand in most of the big cities in Korea, resulting in the chronic and worsening parking shortage problem.
The Hankook Ilbo, sister paper of The Korea Times, reported the case of an office worker who recently moved to a studio apartment in Yongsan District in Seoul. Ever since moving to the new home, he has kept his car in the parking lot without using it, because if he ever leaves the space, it is impossible to park in the spot again. The three-story building has 15 households but its parking lot accommodates only three cars.
There is a public parking lot about 400 meters from his home, but even there, it is difficult to find an empty space in the evening. He is seriously considering selling his car.
There were around 2 million cars in 1988 when the country hosted the Seoul Olympics. The number exploded to 10 million in 1997 in step with economic growth. The number of cars continues to surge surpassing 20 million in 2014. In a few months, it is expected to reach 25 million as more people refrain from using public transportation due to virus concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
|A parking lot is packed with cars at an apartment complex in Apgujeong-dong of Seoul's Gangnam District, Nov. 30. Korea Times file|
Large and expensive apartment complexes are no exception, except for the newly built ones with underground parking garages. Hyundai Apartment in Apgujeong-dong of Gangnam District in Seoul, for example, has 0.75 parking spaces per household, while most of the residents have more than one car. It is one of the most expensive apartment buildings in the country ― a 172-square meter unit was sold at 5.8 billion won ($4.91 million) in September. It is easy to see cars crammed into every corner of the parking lot and in the streets surrounding the complex.
The parking shortage has led to conflicts between residents, with news of parking-related violence making headlines from time to time. According to the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, about 3.14 million parking-related complaints were filed last year, which is more than double the 1.35 million cases in 2017. The newspaper also cited a case in Seoul's Seongdong District in which firefighters had to destructively remove a car parked in an alley as it was blocking a fire engine's access to a fire.
Authorities in Korea could learn from Japan, where people are required to secure a parking space before purchasing a vehicle. The newspaper cited an expert who advises that the government should adopt an "at least one parking space per household" rule instead of complex but lenient guidelines that only benefit construction companies.