Saturday, November 29, 2008


When I left civilisation and returned to England I used to spend a little time trying to increase my ranking in Kartrider, so I was glad to discover that it was still perfectly playable several thousand miles away despite the lag-time one might expect with this distance. Unfortunately, any plans I had to finally attain a coveted rainbow glove were nixed by the worst financial crisis since the 1930s, which left myself and probably most other traders rather preoccupied, if not fighting for survival.

Because of my foray into gaming in Korea, the first time I saw a Kartrider rainbow glove stuck to the back of a white Hyundai I couldn't help but be amused, although this was back in the days before I realised that it wasn't just rainbow gloves, but also driving styles, which had made their way from the online world to the crazy streets of Busan.

One of the first things which struck me - though remarkably not physically - about cars in Busan, was the wide range of colours they seemed to come in. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you could apparently have any colour you wanted as long as it was silver or white. Gradually I noticed a few black cars, and even the occasional red one, but mostly it was silver and white. What's worse, because of the cost of importing foreign cars into the country, there weren't very many of those at all, especially outside the richer areas of the city, which is where I was. So watching the traffic could quickly become a hypnotic display of white and silver Hyundai Accents, and white and blue Bongo trucks, and it serves to remind you that the homogeneous nature of Korea doesn't end on the road. I found it interesting to note though, that in the seventeen months I lived in the country, the roads gradually became slightly more colourful and varied places.

Despite the faceless - or should that be ubiquitous - Stalinesque apartment blocks many people live in, this is thankfully not a completely homogeneous society, and some car owners have clearly made the attempt to customise their cars, with I think you'd have to say, variable results. It can start subtly with some alloys, a new interior and some racing stripes, and accelerate from there.

It's evident that rear wings or spoilers are quite popular, and it seems that the bigger the better. You certainly should make sure it doesn't blend into your car, so it's important to try and make it a completely different colour wherever possible. You might even get a wing with built-in lights.

Making your vehicle multiple colours will certainly get you noticed, and extra points are awarded for the most oversized exhaust. While car graphics in various shapes and sizes are a regular feature of some cars, thinking outside the box and putting your name and blood group on a windscreen is not only different, but quite possibly an interesting anti-theft strategy.

Now so far these additions have been somewhat static. So how about adding a variety of LEDs to your vehicle, to add colour or to blink on and off as you drive through the night? I've seen a lot of these, but they've proven very difficult to photograph, so aside from this:

here are a couple of short videos to illustrate - showing blinking LEDs and blue underside LEDs:

While the streets may be littered with customised Hyundais, it's evident that people do aspire to something a little more exotic, if the discovery that Korean TV is showing British TV series Top Gear is anything to go by. Not being that much of a petrol-head it took me a little while to realise what was wrong with this picture - judging from the admittedly customised licence plate on the Ford Focus RS is six years old. Yes, this could be the oldest Top Gear repeat... in the world. It would still turn heads in Korea though, as would a nice red Audi TT.

Unlike the Ford Focus, the Audi actually was in Korea - I found it in a car showroom in Seoul. It was 69,500,000 won - $47,121 or £30,635 in what's left of my own currency. It's now been so long since I had a full Meniere's attack my own country has let me drive again, so if I'm ever allowed to drive in Korea, I should definitely have one of these shouldn't I? I know to go fully native I should really just drive a white Hyundai Accent, but I think I should really have the Audi to avoid being a sell out, don't you think? They are of course, never going to let me drive in Korea, and even if I could, it's actually too terrifying. So I had to leave my Audi in the Seoul showroom, and console myself with the thought of my Ford Focus stuck in a garage in England waiting for me. It's not quite the same thing.

Now this is one of the stranger things I've seen on the Korean streets, and believe me, there's a lot of competition for that. Is it a fancy vehicle for the elderly or disabled, or is it an exotic golf cart? I just don't know. In England, you see a lot of small vehicles being driven around on the pavements or at the sides of the road by elderly people, but I've never seen anything like them in Korea, and even in England, never anything this fancy. Perhaps it will remain a mystery.


daeguowl said...

I reckon they'd probably let you drive in Korea. Just take your UK license along, take a colour blindness test and you can exchange it. Of course you need balls of steel to actually venture out on the roads...and no matter how good or careful a driver you are, you Audi will still get scratched and dented by all the other incimpetent fuckheads that don't have the benefit of a UK driving education...

Mike said...

Sadly, I don't think my Audi is going to happen somehow. I've seen enough on the roads of Busan to put me off driving in Korea for a lifetime. I guess the subway's safer!

DongKyu said...

Hey Mike, good to see your blog.
I casually found your bolg while I was surffing Internet. Are you staying Busan now? Busan is my hometown actually, but I,m not in Busan now. I have interesting about your blog, maybe I will visit your bolg as many as I can. Of course, from now. Take care your self. ah,, sorry about miss to introduce myself. I am DongKyu, Hey dude just call me Kyu plz^^

DongKyu said...

Hello Mike, I causally found your blog while I was suffing Internet. It makes interesting to me, because Busan is my homtown. So, are you staying busan now? I just feel curius your opinion and idea about Busan :) Maybe I will visit your blog many times from now on. Oh, sorry I haven't introduce me. I,m DongKyu, just call me Kyu. Every my foreign freind call me Kyu. See ya, take care !

DongKyu said...

Why can't I make comment here?

Mike said...

Hello Kyu, thanks for the comments. There's a delay when you post a comment because I check them first to stop spam/junk messages.

I'm not currently in Busan. I have many thoughts and opinions about the city - it is a big place so there is a lot to think about :-) If you read my blog you may understand some of them.

Thank you for visiting!

Jon Allen said...

I saw a couple of really souped up colourful cars one time (and one time only) in Yeouido during the first month we lived there.
It was very very early in the morning and they were on the main road just showing off. Sadly I didn't have the camera at the time, and I never saw them again.

I drove in Korea a couple of times and had no issues with the other drivers. In fact on the motorway was better than in England for driving courtesy I thought.

Charlie Moon said...

It's amazing that you could play Kartrider in England!

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