The Addresses They Are A Changin’
Have you been getting letters in the mail in Korean and you can’t read anything except that you see your address is printed in the center or at the bottom with an arrow to another address? Have you been getting emails from your bank telling you to go online or to your nearest branch and update your address to the new system? You may have gotten an English letter from the immigration office some time back if they have your updated address on file, which they always should. Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, or maybe you have and you didn’t realize it. The addresses are about to change big time in Korea, officially. The Korean government has been trying to push the change for some time, more than two years in fact, and some stubborn people, myself included, have not bothered to learn their new address yet. To be honest, I knew we were moving this year, so I figured, new house, new address. I also figured, I’ve been hearing about this “change” for more than two years and haven’t been forced to make the change yet, so why bother? If my mail is still arriving in a timely manner, then the address I’ve been giving to people is still working. When it came time to moving and getting my address and letting my friends and family know of the address, I naively used the address that was printed on our housing contract by the realtor, not thinking that it was in the old style and not the new. Just a month after we’ve moved and I’ll have to let my friends and family know that, though we have not moved yet again, we do have a new address that they’ll need to put in their address books. People still use those right? I do.
Anyone that has spent any time in Korea will most likely know that giving taxi drivers addresses or asking directions to a particular address from a nearby pedestrian or a shopkeeper in the area won’t get you very far. The GPS systems installed in the taxis are making the use of addresses easier, but still most people opt to ask for directions to major landmarks in the area of their destination before proceeding from there. The numbers on houses don’t always make much sense, 25 next to 46, 25-1, 25-2 and 25-3 but only one 30. And here’s why: The old address system was created during the Japanese colonial period and was based on that of Japan’s which assigned numbers to houses by chronology instead of geography, meaning the houses were numbered by when they were built and not where in the lot they stood. Because of this you can have house 25 next to house 46. The dashes to the numbers were added when say one plot was divided into three plots, or sold off in parts, so you could end up with 25-1, 25-2 and 25-3 meaning originally 25 was all of those plots of land, but was meted out into smaller plots at some point. To read more about what all of the parts of the old Korean address system means, I suggest checking out Suzy Chung’s article on The Korea Blog for some great info.
Now for the changes. The Korean government is assigning street, avenue and boulevard names to each street and putting numbers on houses based on geographical location. Depending on their width, roads will be labeled gil (길) for street, ro (로) for avenue and daero (대로) for boulevard. From the main axis road in an area, streets are then numbered on the left with odd numbers and to the right with even numbers, as in: in my area Saeteosan-gil is the main thoroughfare, a small one, but the main one, and all of the streets that branch of that are numbered: Saeteosan 2-gil to the right and Saeteosan 3-gil to the left and so on. I find that slightly confusing as if you were walking down Saeteosan 2-gil you would end up on Saeteosan 3-gil without ever realizing it if you didn’t know you’d crossed the main axis, but I guess all of those new blue road signs the government has installed will help with that.
Here’s a look at my new area. Our main road is Saeteosan-gil. It’s a small one, but according to this map and the description of how to read the new maps, this is our main one. Saeteosan-gil actually goes west to east, despite what this map looks like. So, the even numbers are to the north of the road, and the odd numbers are to the south. However, even that is not always the case. My last house sits on a main thoroughfare in Yeonnam-dong. The main street runs north to south and so the even numbers are to the east and the odd numbers are to the west. My point is, I think with system will still be just as confusing, since there doesn’t seem to be a geographic reason as to why certain roads were chosen as the “main” roads in any given area. Are they supposed to be bigger? In my area, that argument doesn’t hold true. Maybe they are the straightest of the options? Also, though the numbers are supposed to make more sense, and yes I know corner plots can be confusing and depend on where the mail box is posted, I find this little quirk in my area humorous (see below). Can you see it? If you’re walking up the “main” road there are 4 2’s right off the bat. Awkward.On that note, I’ve never looked at the numbered plots in my area of Ohio from above and I’m sure just as amusing quirks with how those houses are numbered exist as well. I’m just stubborn to change and though I’ll send my friends and family the address based on this new system, I probably won’t actually use it in a taxi anytime soon, instead opting to give them the biggest landmark in the area.
To find your new address head to this site:
In this site, you can type your address in the box at the top and it will give you your new address. (Don’t include your 3rd floor, 4th floor etc. as that will stay the same and if you do include it, it will come out with an error on the site.)
Also, for more reading, here’s an article on how to read the newer street signs so that you know what they mean and they can help you when trying to find your way when you’re smart phone isn’t up to the task: New Address System Takes Full Effect Next Year
Good luck out there!