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South Korea’s public transport

12:04 AM June 16, 2015

A four-day stay in Seoul, South Korea, with my colleagues several weeks ago, opened our eyes to a different world amazingly far beyond compare to dear home country Philippines. It was definitely fun-filled—from the time we arrived at the Incheon Airport through the next days until we left. And this was so mainly because of Korea’s highly efficient mass public transport system.

Korea’s public transportation—trains, buses and taxis alike—is run by its government. The drivers (considered government workers) are professional and the commuters are well-disciplined. Through our entire tour, never did we see a smoke-belching vehicle. Despite the presence of cars, Korea is a smoke-free world with lush greenery all over. We moved around with ease in a zero-crime rate environment.

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Traveling by train in Korea does not make a passenger feel like a lesser person. Young and old, rich and poor, managers and ordinary workers take the train as a way of life. No single guard was there to check bags with a “magic stick” the way it is disgustingly done here. Train doors automatically shut (unlike in our country where guards have to manually help close the doors of a fully packed train). Eating and drinking are not prohibited, but amazingly the trains are “superclean,” with nary a trash. Comfort rooms are truly a comfort to those who need them. Sturdy safety handles were all over, and there was no reason for any passenger to fall. And the senior citizens and disabled had designated reserved seats.

We experienced or saw no traffic congestion. I wonder if the word “late” is in the Korean vocabulary. Commuters wait at designated stations only and they are guided by accurate arrival and departure schedules of trains or buses. Time must be highly valued in Korea.

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Can you blame us if we have so high a regard for South Korea after our short visit and long to go back there?

Sadly, we cannot offer visitors to our country, specifically Metro Manila, the same convenience.

That is because our government has been rendered incapable of solving the worsening traffic mess in Metro Manila. Taking a ride via the Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit remains a hellish drill despite the fare increase that is supposedly meant to raise funds for the improvement of their facilities and services. (There is no train ride where I do not undergo physical torture.) The government remains blind and callous to the plight of ordinary workers who must go to work by train or bus.

Adding to the commuters’ plight is the indefinite suspension of PNR (Philippine National Railways) operations. Hundreds of thousands of commuters who are working in Makati have to suffer horrendous traffic, besides having to scramble for a ride every working day.

The funny thing is, in the face of all these and many other problems, President Aquino and his Liberal Party are busily searching instead for winnable candidates they can field in the 2016 elections.

On behalf of the growing number of irate commuters, may I ask the present administration: Couldn’t we be given the right attention first?

—BELEN DOCENA-ASUELO, [email protected]

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