The Ministry of Land Transport and Maritime Affairs (국토행양부) is currently promoting a Keep Right campaign. They have posted signs everywhere in the stairs and exits of the subway encouraging everyone who uses the stairs to keep to their respective right. To perhaps enforce this, they’ve also changed the direction of all of the escalators in the subway, something I find maddening. I had gotten the layout of certain subway stations down to an almost instinctive level only to find myself nearly trying to go up the down subway and down the up subway. And yes, I’ve thrown off the warning buzzers more than once.
Korean escalators are often of a unique design. In a quest to save on the cost of electricity, sensors have been installed which activate the escalators when a person passes by. They are also equipped to notice if somebody is trying to go down the wrong way and will let out a very loud buzzing noise. (There is also a spiral escalator in Seoul. It is at Lotte World. Here’s an image of one, though not in Korea.)
As far as its success with stairways in the subway, it is a failure. Other than confusing everybody from the first day that this perverse, though well-meaning scheme was put in place, nobody tends to follow it. Heaven only knows how many millions of won the government spent on this campaign so far. While such campaigns are probably praiseworthy, when it comes to traffic, the Korean people have a habit of going their own way with an aversion to straight lines, something borne out not only in the driving habits of bus drivers and taxicab drivers, but in the traditional architecture as well.