Are scooters popular in Korea?

South Korea is a small costal nation in eastern Asia. Despite the modest size over the span of decades, it has become a global hub for innovation and technology.

Comparative with its counterpart Japan in this area, it has since risen to an almost completely urbanized area. So you may wonder how do people travel there. Well, unlike many highly develop countries with dense infrastructure the country in even its most concentrated area, Seoul, is not just packed with cars and buses, but is a perfect ground for skating enthusiasts.

Skating in South Korea

Skating has long been a cultural phenomenon in Korea. Started around the baby boom in the late 1990’s, skating was associated with freedom and straying from the pressure and expectations of society. The skateboard might have been invented in the West, but Asian countries like Japan and Korea have truly transformed the platform into art. In fact, you may say that these two countries are always fighting with each other over the dominance in this sport.

Since then it has only become more prominent. Cities like Seoul and Busan has become havens for skaters. These urban areas have the perfect mixture of benches and smooth platforms that attract skaters from all around the world. That is why to this day you will be hard pressed to overlook the many skaters that roam South Korea.

Transportation in South Korea

Extensive networks of railways, highways, bus routes, ferry services and air routes provide transport in South Korea. Although by far the subway is the most preferred means of transport. South Korea’s six largest cities — Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangyu, Daejeon and Incheon — all have subway systems. It is estimated that in the capital alone more than a million people board the subway everyday. These major cities have some of the most advanced subway networks in the world. The urban area in South Korea has long been praised for its simple and easy to navigate transport systems.

Buses are mostly relegated to local and private businesses. You will see much buses compared to other countries surrounding it. Then again, why would you take the bus when you have the amazing subway, which is cheaper and faster. Furthermore, all major urban areas are connected by railway systems so the whole of the country is interlinked.

Outside of the big cities

While South Korea is the most famous for its futuristic urban landscapes, most of the country is comprised of the countryside. Here you will find lush green scenery and small villages mostly inhabited by farmers with population sizes in the thousands, quite a step down from the millions living in major cities. Nonetheless, about half the population of the country lives in these areas. In these parts subways are hard to come by and trains aren’t convenient enough for small travel across town or for casual use.

Which is why most people preferred to get by using bicycles, however that in itself poses major problems. For instance, many towns don’t have proper road systems and pavements, which results in unsafe roads for bicycle use. The number of accidents with bicycles in the countryside is much higher than in the city, despite the larger amounts of traffic and cars. The Korean government is tackling this issue, and many small towns and villages are being renovated in order to decrease the number of accidents.  However, this process is lengthy and expensive. To this day transport in rural communities remains a large issue.

 The rise of scooters in South Korea

Perhaps to this dilemma since the early 2000’s scooters have taken over the rural areas. There are many reasons for this: scooters are easy to use and provides a fast means of transport, while being much cheaper than automobiles and more reliable than bicycles.  Scooters are largely safe and can traverse even rough countryside terrain. Nowadays, you will hard pressed to find a single town without at least one scooter owner. They helped the town locals massively, but were relegated  to the countryside. After all, they were quite bulky and difficult to manage when put in the city environment. Moreover, they were not allowed on pedestrian walking paths so they had to be used on the roads, contending with cars and mostly ending up stuck in traffic. In contrast, bikes were easy and simple, costing even less than scooters, and the landscape of urban areas were perfect for bikes. Consequently, most city dwellers travelled via bike or subway with little room for scooters.

The E-Scooter phenomenon.

During the 2010’s many countries saw the emergence of the rental transport trend. Companies noticed the difficulties of use of normal bicycles. Usually the average person uses their bicycle to get to from point A to point B, after which the bike becomes completely useless. Most people have experienced a situation where their bikes became nuisances that they needed to carry or store. With this problem in mind the so-called rental bicycles emerged. With a onetime fee a user can rent a bike, usually for an hour, get to their destination and leave it at a designated station.

This concept became extremely popular, especially in large urban areas. It was only a matter of time before it found its way to South Korea, where it found moderate levels of success. However, oddly enough a similar yet different trend completely took over Korean cities – the e-scooters.

While it remains a question why rental scooters are more popular than bicycles, the trend really took off. These rental scooters recently have invaded even the Korean capital, Seoul. They are the kick-scooters with a max speed of 25 km per hour, without a plate and with limited circulating rules.

Kick-scooters have taken over Seoul. Starting from Gangnam station and branching out, you will see more and more E-Scooters on the streets. Large and small companies alike began to make their own rental scooter businesses. Currently the largest companies, Beam, Lime, Xing Xing, and Kickgoing, have placed their e-scooters near over 100 subway stations in Seoul. It is estimated that 17 companies are operating over 40,000 e-scooters in Seoul. In addition, e-scooters aren’t just limited to the capital, and they operate in every large city in Korea.

However, public perceptions are divided. Many citizens complain that these e-scooters are not good for the community. There have been many complaints from homeowners, pedestrians, and drivers in Korea. Moreover, recently amidst the pandemic the government introduces new regulations for rental transport businesses.


Scooters have truly taken over South Korea. Whether it is the traditional scooters accounting for the countryside, or the e-scooters in large cities, it is safe to say that scooters in general are here to stay. However, in the case of rental scooters in urban districts it is important that they do not interfere with public safety and are organized into clean systems.