[Journalism Internship] City scooters offer convenience for many, dangers for someTwenty minutes. That’s what it took for Matt Mercier, 16, a student at Yongsan International School of Seoul, to get to school every morning before getting an electric scooter.
With the scooter, also known as an e-scooter, Mercier was able to have a faster and more enjoyable commute to school every morning, in just five minutes.
“It has great accessibility,” he said. “I can use them whenever I want, even when it is too late outside for other means of transportation like the subway.”
Like Mercier, many Koreans over the last several years have been turning to micromobility to navigate the traffic congested streets of Korea.
However, Mercier, like many others, has begun to see some of the consequences and dangers of riding an e-scooter. There have been many instances in which danger was just one wrong move away.
“I haven’t been injured, but when I ride my scooter, many times I’m close to getting hit by cars or falling over due to a lack of scooter or bike lanes,” he said.
Hwang In-gyu, 16, who attends Korea International School Jeju Campus, echoed Mercier’s sentiment.
“I saw someone riding an e-scooter across the road, holding their phone in one hand, then he got bumped by a truck and he stayed in a coma for two weeks,” said Hwang.
E-scooters have gotten increasingly popular throughout the years. Not just in ownership, but e-scooter renting has also become very popular. Rental electric scooters first made their appearance in 2018. Ever since then, they have become more and more popular through out the years.
According to the Google Play Store, in 2019, the number of people in Korea who downloaded an electric scooter app on an Android were around 37,000. In 2020, that number jumped to over 214,000.
Ethan Young, 16, said, “A lot of my friends and family have begun to ride e-scooters lately. We mainly use the apps Swing and Lime, because you can find them on the streets wherever you go.”
Swing and Lime are both popular e-scooter rental services that have electric scooters placed all around Korea. These e-scooters can be found in almost any area in Seoul, and they can be unlocked for an affordable price using mobile phones. In 2021, over 60,000 of these shared electric scooters were deployed in Seoul alone.
But controversy has also risen over the scooters, especially in regards to safety. There have been more frequent cases of accidents, accompanying the rising popularity of the e-scooters.
According to data released by the Korean National Police Agency, the number of traffic accidents involving electric scooters, electric mopeds, Segway scooters and other mobility devices have risen to 897 in 2020, nearly quadrupling that of two years prior.
Hong Ji-min, a freshman at Yonsei University in Seoul, said he stopped riding e-scooters due to the possible risks.
“I witnessed some accidents where people got injured severely,” said Hong. “If the government wants to mitigate risks of e-scooters, it should introduce more restrictions.”
But for Mercier, he said he wasn’t ready to give up riding.
“Even though it can be dangerous, I still use it,” he said. “I believe that it is still a better option of transportation for many.”
BY KIM JOO-AHN(Yongsan International School of Seoul) [email@example.com], PARK SEO-A(Korea International School, Jeju Campus) [firstname.lastname@example.org]