New Street Address System Causes Mass Confusion

The latest efforts to implement a new address system in South Korea have led to widespread protest, notably from the police, firemen, and taxi drivers who rely on addresses to function. Until recently, the South Korean address system involved a complex system of lot numbers, made simpler by specifying the building’s neighborhood, or ‘dong’ name and including landmarks. Lot number addresses, while difficult to find in theory, were very easy to locate thanks to advanced GPS and navigation systems in cars, taxis, and smart phones.

Netizens have criticized the effort to have the same address system as the majority of countries worldwide, drawing sharp distinctions between the old system that fit Korea’s apartment complexes and the new “American-style address system”. Since 2011, the government has been phasing in the new street name addresses. Starting in 2014, the South Korean government has made its new street name address system official. All public offices and institutions are required to use the new addresses, and buildings now all sport a new address sign. Since many people have largely ignored the new address system for various reasons, the sudden change has caused confusion throughout the entire country.

Article from Yonhap:

Mass confusion on the first working day of the new year due to new address system

– Firefighters, police, wandering around streets – expect delays as they adjust.

The new so-called ‘street name and building number’ address system has begun to be used in earnest at the start of the new year. Confusion can be felt everywhere on the first working day of the year, the 2nd of January.

2014 full use of new street addresses

An information poster made by the Ministry of Securty and Public Administration, explaining the official change to the new street address system in 2014.

Since having been implemented, the new addresses have not yet been added to navigation systems. For the past two days taxi drivers have had trouble finding their way, and dispatched police and firefighters are taking longer to reach the scene due to difficulty determining the location. The new street name system is also confusing many local residents.

Those who spend a lot of time navigating the streets, taxi drivers and delivery people, are the first to complain of difficulty with the new system.

‘Before, if someone told me whichever neighborhood it was, I had a pretty good idea of where to go. But it’s hard to get a feeling for where it is just by knowing the street name.’ says taxi driver, Kim (38), adding, ‘Navigation systems also have not added the new street addresses, making it hard work for us.’

Taxi driver, Lee (48) remarks, ‘Every day we give hundreds of rides, so looking up each and every address is difficult.’ Adding, “It’s a really big deal since we have to re-learn every address right down to the smallest alleyway,’ he said with a sigh.

It is even worse for firefighters and police responding to urgent calls.

One firefighter from the Gwangjin district fire department said ‘Navigation systems can’t properly recognize the new addresses, since the most important part of the address, the ‘dong’ [neighborhood], is missing. It leads us down the completely wrong route. You can’t afford to waste time, so when you wander around searching for the address, you might miss the chance to save a life,’ he explains, adding ‘Fire and emergency response centers still receive dispatches based on the old address system.’

One police detective stated, ‘If we input a street name, hundreds of similar addresses come up. Due to this we first input the old style address into the navigation system to get to the general area, then we change to the new street address to find the location. It’s getting to be a cumbersome task.’

street name address confusion

“Street name address”

Real estate agencies are also sharing in the confusion, which arises when making contracts for the sale or rental of properties. Buildings display the existing lot number but the leasing agent must write the building’s street name address.

The owner of a real estate business, Ms. Yu (42) says that, ‘Since we have to know both the old and new addresses, it’s easy to confuse them. We are doing our best to study the directory that was distributed by the municipal office.’

Although the government has spent years promoting the new address system, many people who have not yet grown accustomed to the new addresses have complained of their inconvenience.

32-year old Kim, who lives in Hyunjeo-dong, Seodaemun district in Seoul complains that, ‘When I wanted to order something online, it seemed like dozens of addresses from all over the country were displayed when I entered the new so-called “street” name. To keep having to check over and over takes so much time.’

Looking to get residence papers, civil documents, and the like, a man in his sixties visited the Gwanak-gu district office. Since he does not know his new address, he has to check with an employee before he is able to receive his papers.

Upon hearing the news that from now on the new street addresses must be used whenever dealing with a public institution, the man laughed as he explained that, “It’s awkward getting rid of addresses we’ve used for so many years and writing new ones. Of course I can get used to it, but it might take a while.”

Comments from Naver:

But why in the world..?? Were the addresses we already had so inconvenient?


To spend billions of won for this, they should’ve at least made the street names suitable for Korea’s situation. Making American style addresses – it’s making everything so inconvenient, tsk tsk.


This policy is just garbage.

미투데이 샤르첸:

This is much worse than when they changed all the sidewalks for no reason.


It works only when all of the buildings are arranged like a checkerboard.


Just waste 400 billion and go back to the old address system, it’s easier.

shortcut to a wasted budget

“Shortcut to a wasted budget.”


In the United States they have separate houses, so even if you look at one street there are only 10 homes. But in Korea there are a lot of apartment complexes, so on one street there could be thousands of homes. It’s a very inefficient system. I think that in a place like Korea with such high land prices, where people live mostly in apartments, a lot number address is more efficient than a street name address.


Police officers and 119[first responders] will be blamed for being late. If you have that much budget, spend it for paying debts, government.


Delivery people, police officers, and firefighters don’t like it.


It’s not too late. I won’t even blame anyone, just go back to the way it was before.


They are just copying foreign countries – it’s useless and will probably be a waste… Everyone’s confused! So annoyed…


Let’s at least write the neighborhood and village names that we used to use. Like this: Seoul-si Yeongdeungpo-gu Yeouido-dong 00 street 72-5. At least, you should help them guess to find a location. There are a lot of different locations with the same 00 street name.


Who the heck is this for?


They should’ve changed it after making more preparations. So inconvenient.


What the hell… The old system was not inconvenient at all.


Is this really something that should be changed?


We should find out who that idiotic government workers are who pushed this street address idea through. That guy should get fired.


I knew this already. I predicted it. Everyone getting confused over the addresses. They suddenly changed the addresses and why would it not cause confusion? Even I’m lost… hell, what about my penpal!!


Whichever city hall employee who thought of this is just the biggest idiot ever. Should get sued, for real… what are you even doing? To the address system we’ve been using well…So when there are two or three streets right next to each other inside of an apartment complex, they’ll all have different addresses?? This really pisses me off. And you also have to get the direction right going down a street, adding in each little alleyway, right? Just because it’s not your money, you shouldn’t go around using it for this nonsense. We could be using this money to make more public kindergartens or resolve other issues for citizens. City halls and town halls are all empty by 5:30 PM.


Each neighborhood has its neighborhood office. But if the neighborhood’s name isn’t on the address sign, all around it in that district there will be over a thousand with the same street name. So what number will you remember it by? It’s easy to just have the neighborhood name too, why do something so stupid.

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