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:
cksk****:

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

noon****:

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.

skwh****:

This policy is just garbage.

미투데이 샤르첸:

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

nama****:

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

hyen****:

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.”

lees****:

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.

sjan****:

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

nama****:

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

sang****:

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

sssu****:

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

ght8****:

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.

sang****:

Who the heck is this for?

sevi****:

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

rlac****:

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

kjom****:

Is this really something that should be changed?

tyki****:

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

love****:

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!!

skyk****:

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.

khug****:

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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  • bigmamat

    Sounds a lot like the U.S and the metric system….

    • Yaminah Jamison

      Omg if they just forced the metric system in the US outta nowhere…. in my scho it was taught, but very very briefly and only in science.

      • bigmamat

        yeah the rest of the world uses it but not the U.S. to much resistance…

        • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

          Well it’s a byproduct of being a British Colony. Hence why it isn’t called U.S system, but Imperial System.

          • lou

            Actually, it”s called the U.S. Customary System. It is a measurement system descended from the English system.

            In the U.S., the Imperial system has NEVER been used. U.S. achieved independence (1776) several years before British parliament introduced the Imperial system.

            Nowadays, U.S. Customary and Imperial system actually differ on some measurements because of their split lineage.

    • nqk123

      what is wrong with US metric system?

      • bigmamat

        nothing just every other country is metric….

        • nqk123

          oh, so the problem is that it’s an inconvenience for others country. i thought it was something big

          • pressstart

            Well, U.S. schools teach metric and imperial, and in science, we mainly use metric anyway. If Korea can take a much bigger change with the address system, then the U.S. should be able to handle a little transition to metric. Stupid that we don’t just move over completely.

          • nqk123

            if they want change, they better start with the kids because the old are usually prone to changes. the international metric system is not that hard to learn.

      • Ruaraidh

        Compare using fractions of an inch with millimetres, I know which is easier for me. Also since we use a base 10 numerical system, it makes a lot of sense to use base 10 units of measurement, not one with absolutely no coherency in that regard.

    • cqn0

      Actually, the street system makes a lot of sense in America despite not working in other countries, because cities tend to have grid-like street systems, with numbers. Manhattan is pretty easy to get around, for example.

      But other countries tend to have much older cities, so it doesn’t make sense to use an American-style addressing system.

      • bigmamat

        Well maybe, maybe not. I was reading why the Korean street system doesn’t always appear logical. There was a time when many of the houses were built during the Japanese occupation. The Japanese issued lot numbers in chronological order not by street location. So you could have different types of numbers for each street. Later came the big apartment buildings which would have been a perfect time to start using a numbering system based on location. That’s how the systems differed is how I have read.

      • John I.B.C. Madison

        Not all areas in Seoul or other major Korean cities are chaotic and unplanned.
        Many areas were destroyed during wars, redevelopment, and etc, so may work well under a road name system.

        But that’s really a secondary issue, b/c the road name system is in itself kind of stupid without additional qualifier. Like 1562 14th St vs. 1564 14th NW. In the former, I have no idea where 1562 14th st is, but in the latter I have some idea. The new Korean system lacks such qualifier, so it’s even worse than before.

    • David

      lol yes. Although I am very fluent with the metric system (good thing since I am in China now) but most people are not.

    • Yorgos

      Except in this case, the old system is U.S. Customary, the new system is the Metric.

  • Yaminah Jamison

    I kinda think they should have prepared people a bit more for that.

    • They have started preparations years ago. Most buildings in Seocho-gu even have a QR code on the address plate giving you the old address, new address and map of the neighbourhood.

      Some online shopping sites now use the new street name system exclusively for delivery.

      The argument that “navigation systems did not integrate the new naming convention” is not really convincing. Almost everyone in Korea have a smartphone, and all map applications can handle the new addressing scheme gracefully, or convert them to the old system. Personally I think car navigation systems is a bit of relic from the last century that should have been replaced with smartphones anyway.

      The new address can also be converted to the old system mentally if you use it often enough. For example remembering Seocho-daero number 1-99 is Bangbae 1-dong, Seocho-daero number 101-199 is Bangbae 2-dong and so on…

      I think what we are seeing is simply resistance to change. They will change eventually, navigation systems will be updated and people will get used to the new scheme.

      • Yaminah Jamison

        Aaah ok but how forced was it upon the people though? When addresses and such are given out on commercials, products, TV, media, etc was it emphasized or… was kinda there and not given attention? Only asking to get a better idea is all.

  • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

    So what? Government conspiracy to get people to buy more GPSs to keep from getting lost?

    • Yorgos

      But shouldnt this new system make GPS less necessary in the long-term?

      • A Gawd Dang Mongolian

  • Gorgonzola

    The only thing more retarded than the new system is the one it replaces. Progress!

    • David

      BTW I love blue cheese and this is my favorite Italian cheese. : )

      • bigmamat

        Dude I’m with you on that one…Go Gorgonzola…says the fat chick.

  • Gabrielle

    The old system’s problem is that one’s lack infomation (neighbourhood maps, sign for pedestrians), when by foot in a residential area, looking for a place. The new system share the same issue, so it’s not an improvement. I would have like if the old system with neighbourhood maps around subway station, big intersections, and tourist and/or popular areas (I know they are some maps, but not enough and it’s district-based; Seocho-gu has implanted lots of maps, Donjak-gu much less so for example), and withing residential areas, some poles with signs at pedestrian level, indicating Dong and block (번지) number. Then with proper labelling of each buiding number, finding a place would be easy.

  • Peter K

    As a foreinger it was confusing and still is not really clear to me how the original address stuff works in Korea, i am just glad that there is naver maps and so on, otherwise i would be lost everytime.. its not that self explanitory. But i doubt the new system will help since there are so many smaller “roads” inbetween, unless they give them all names it will still be confusing.

    In Europe where all streets where a house is has a name, a system like this makes sense and is intuitive… If i am at Examplestreet 15 and need to go to 30, i know where to find it and where to go.

  • Neil Goddard

    one of the reasons stated on the govt website is for global economy. Looking forward to the future, business with other countries. They want to be in sync w/ the world who uses a different system. I can say personally when I’m here I can’t find a place using the old system. Only through a map then have to just navigate from a subway system. Let’s have faith that the govt thought long and hard on this, and tested it out for any wrinkles that could pop up.

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