The Korea Herald

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Commuters rise early to avoid rush hour

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Dec. 22, 2023 - 13:43

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Commuters in Gwangju get on a bus Thursday morning. (Newsis) Commuters in Gwangju get on a bus Thursday morning. (Newsis)

Nearly 1 in 4 South Korean workers beat the morning traffic rush by leaving home before 7 a.m., according to data released Thursday by Statistics Korea and SK Telecom.

Analyzing data from 7.12 million commuters, the findings revealed that 24.6 percent hit the road before 7 a.m., with the figure swelling to 50.8 percent by 8 a.m.

These early birds spend an average 34.7 minutes commuting one way, and those living in cities surrounding Seoul endure even longer journeys, averaging 40.3 minutes.

That, combined with the 42.9-minute return trip, means a daily commute of one hour and 23 minutes for those outside Seoul.

This data also underscores the significant challenge facing the government's commitment in December 2021 to reduce commuting times by 2030. Its aim is to trim one-way commutes to under 40 minutes.

The average round-trip commute spans 18.4 kilometers, but residents in neighboring cities of Seoul travel the farthest, logging 20.4 kilometers each way on average.

The long journeys are partly due to frequent intercity commutes.

Sejong saw the lowest level of intracity commutes, with only 56.8 percent commuting within the city.

Among Sejong residents, 20.9 percent commute to Daejeon and 10.3 percent to surrounding South Chungcheong Province. The analysis suggests this trend stems from new apartment complexes in Sejong attracting workers from neighboring cities.

Following Sejong, Incheon and Gyeonggi Province boast intracity commute rates of 68.7 percent and 74.7 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, 21.5 percent of Gyeonggi Province residents commute to Seoul.