We got an email from the American embassy about some new laws in Seoul. If you live in Seoul and don’t know about these laws, you really should. Only one of them really applies to us, and we are going to have to learn more specifics on that one so not to cause ourselves trouble. However, anyone, foreigner or not, should know about these laws because they have some pretty stiff penalties.
The first law is one that I need to worry about. Every year, yellow dust blows into Korea from China. Sometimes, I get notifications on my phone from the Korean government that the yellow dust is high. They recommend people not to go outside on days like that if they can help it. They also recommend that people wear medical style face masks on the days that the yellow dust count is high. The yellow dust can cause respiratory problems. Many foreigners get sick because of the yellow dust their first year in Korea, but they adapt after that. However, some people get sick every time the yellow dust comes. We are actually pretty lucky because we are not bothered much by the yellow dust. However, there are days we go to our car when the yellow dust is high, and our car is completely covered in yellow dust. It is disheartening if you just washed your car. However, those are not the problems.
The new law can be a problem for a lot of people. Effective February 15th, on the days the yellow dust count is high, certain people will not be allowed to drive their cars. Every other day, if your licence plate ends in an even number, you can’t drive, and if your licence place ends with an odd number, you can drive on the days the even numbers can’t, but are not allowed to drive on the same day that the even numbers drive.
If your car is older than being made in 1987, you are not allowed to drive when the dust is high. Thankfully, my car is fairly new. I am glad I don’t need to drive everyday, but I will still have to be careful when I go out and make sure that it is a day I am allowed to drive. Either that, or I will have to take the subway which the doctors have told me isn’t good for me.
The next law people need to know about and is shocking to me, but doesn’t apply to me is about dogs. We don’t have a dog. However, if you have a dog and it is not on a leash, they can charge you up to $3,000. If your dog is a Japanese mastiff, pit bull terrier, Stanford short haired terrier, Rottweiler, and some other breeds, they must have a muzzle on them in pubic, or you can be fined $3,000. If your dog bites anyone, you will either go to jail for 3 years or be charged $30,000. Wow! Be careful, dog owners!
I probably don’t know anyone who is going to break the last law unless it be a silly student from the university who hasn’t learned better. However, some foreign English teachers or foreign military men really need to take note of this one. My Romanian friends need to know this too because it is much stricter than you would think. Currently, if your blood alcohol is .05 %, you can go to jail for 5 years and/or have to pay $20,000 in fines if you drive a car. After a certain hour, the cops stand at the stop signs here testing everyone’s breath. They are about to lower that percentage. Starting in June, if you blood alcohol level is .03% when you drive, you will be the one in jail for 5 years and/or have to pay $20,000 in fines. You can have a blood level of .03% just from drinking one drink. This is considerably lower than it is in the States.
(I have changed all the amounts from won to dollars, and it is just an approximation. Here in Korea, they won’t charge you dollars, but won. )
Really, these laws are really strict, and people in Seoul need to pay attention. I am going to have to keep tabs on how much yellow dust is in the air and not get surprised and get myself in trouble by driving on the wrong day. I am happy I don’t have a dog, and most foreigners don’t in Korea, but the Koreans with dogs will have to be very careful with their dogs. As far at the liquor thing, I am glad I am not a drinker. If you are a drinker, be careful. I would hate to see one of my friends in jail because they just had one drink.