It is fortunate that National Police Agency chief Cho Hyun-oh officially withdrew a controversial plan to change the traffic signal system by introducing red arrow for “no left turn.”
“Global standards” were cited for the change, which the police asserted was conducive to reducing traffic accidents. It took two years for the NPA to prepare for the change after the National Competitiveness Commission asked it to work out a comprehensive plan to prevent car accidents on Korea’s streets, reputedly the most dangerous in the OECD.
Researchers traveled to major foreign cities to collect information on traffic signal systems. The Road Traffic Law was revised last August to facilitate the introduction of the new red light containing an arrow inside the circle, but the police did not provide much publicity until they suddenly installed the red arrow at the Gwanghwamun intersection and several other locations on April 20.
Motorists were confused without knowing whether the left arrow in the red signal meant they could or could not make a left turn. Drivers asked traffic police what to do and the unprepared patrolmen were not sure themselves.
It was only in January last year that the NPA changed the traffic signal system to flash the left turn sign (in green) after the green light, instead of the red light. After months of practice, people gradually became familiar with the new signals. And then, all of a sudden, the red arrow appeared.
“We change, you follow” is perhaps the basic mindset of our National Police. But this time, citizens did not quietly follow. Internet spaces overflowed with complaints and media found that there were few examples of red arrows in foreign countries within the OECD or elsewhere.
NPA Commissioner Cho called a press conference Monday to announce the removal of the red arrows, saying that he would assume all responsibility for the three weeks of confusion. He made no comment about the waste of more than 100 million won spent on installing and replacing the signals.