Monday, June 8, 2009

Lady-friendly Seoul

Ladies only parking in Mokdong, western Seoul.
It's fun to imagine what the half-circle could be if not a skirt. Surfboard? Sunset?

In late April the Seoul Metropolitan Government announced plans to make Korea more female-friendly. Sounds great to those of my variety, but some the ideas put forth by the overwhelmingly male-staffed government to reach this goal are at the same time humorous and mildly offensive. Parking spaces designated as ladies-only have been a big media attraction. Complete with pink paint and skirted icons, the spaces certainly brighten up the city's public parking areas. Perhaps its not the idea itself that's questionably altruistic, but the way in which officials and media are describing it. Take, for example, this passage from the Korea Times:

The spaces will be painted pink with emblems of women in the center. The special parking lots will be longer and wider than normal parking spaces.

I guess stereotypes of female drivers are cross-cultural. Some web browsing tells me ladies-only spaces in other Korean cities may utilize differnet emblems to keep men at bay. Although the design below is purtier, I prefer the more elusive skirt/surfboard/sunset option.

Iksan opts for floral feminine markers

Although I don't drive in Seoul, I'd be more inclined to take advantage of the exclusive spots in a huge city where vehicles are plentiful and parking is scarce than to complain about sexism. The female-only spots are also reportedly well lit and located nearer elevators, exits, and security guards.

The media's go-to government spokesperson on this issue is Assistant Mayor for Women and Family Affairs Cho Eun-hee. Ms. Cho told the Korea Times, "It is like adding a female touch to a universal design and make things more comfortable for women."

Ladies only spots flank Yeouido Park

The she-spots, as my friend Matt likes to call them, are just part of the city's plan to make the ladies happy. In fact, the "Women Friendly Seoul" initiative is a 95-million dollar endeavor which includes installing nearly 7,000 female toilets around the capital and replacing heel-eating brick sidewalks with a more stiletto-friendly squishy surface. Personally, I'm a big fan of the bouncy sidewalks. Some even offer a deceptive brick-like design that once made my sister-in-law believe she had drunk one two many glasses of soju with dinner.

You can see a green squishy sidewalk in the back, left corner


Kevin said...

Wow! That is quite an interesting idea. I've seen parking stalls reserved for pregnant ladies here in the states, though. I'm curious...are there any fines for men who park in the stalls reserved for females?

Abby Rhodes said...

Good question, Kevin! In fact, I was wondering the same thing myself, especially when I saw a large delivery truck parked in one of the pink spots earlier this week. Of course, it's rather sexist of me to assume the truck's driver is male. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Abby,
I like the floral one too. But it does have a "Marilyn Monroe" quality to it as well. Maybe because that was so long ago, and from a different culture it is no longer something to consider.

Vic in Long Beach, CA

Anonymous said...

Hello Abby! my name is Andy, i live in Seoul, and i am doing research on this "women-friendly initiative," any tips on where else i could find more info? thank you so much in advance!!!

YellowLemon in WhiteWorld said...

Hi Abby,
this Lady-friendly idea sounds cool..but, at the same time, i think this is another idea to show to the world that women are weak :(
anyway, as a lady myself, i dont think i need this ^^
however, i do agreed with parking bay reserve for pregnant ladies in US, after all is the man's baby the lady is carrying ^^

Anonymous said...

because the women drives a car very bad badly


travellinglite47 said...

Hi are these you photos and can we use them at Sky News London.