12 brilliant ideas from South Korea that other countries should borrow
From cup sterilizers at every restaurant and huge umbrellas on crosswalks to robots escorting passengers in the airport. These are great ideas from South Korea that make an everyday life more comfortable.
Renowned high-tech products and smartphones are not the only ones that make South Korea one of the world’s most innovative countries.
A number of simple but brilliant everyday innovations make traveling or living in South Korea an enjoyable experience and leave you wondering why these ideas haven’t been brought to your country.
1. Three different types of slippers in a hotel room
Surprisingly clean streets and other public places are one of the most extraordinary facts about South Korea. However, when it comes to cleanliness, Koreans become even more vigilant inside the walls.
A first-time visitor to Korea is often surprised when asked to remove shoes before entering his hotel room.
What’s even more confusing, that in most of the cases, he’ll find three different pairs of slippers in a hotel room.
And it’s not so easy to figure out by yourself that one pair is meant for bathroom, another one – for walking inside, while the third one – for going outside your room.
Besides, a guest also has to remove his shoes at the entrance of a traditional restaurant where everybody sits on the floor at low tables.
2. Plastic umbrella covers
In fact, Koreans are so obsessed with cleanliness that they came up with numerous inventions on how to keep their property tidy no matter the circumstances.
Usually, rainy days are synonymous with dirty floors at supermarkets and cafes. Visitors carry around their wet umbrellas dripping water all over the place.
However, it’s not the case in South Korea. Stands with plastic umbrella covers are installed near the entrance of many large supermarkets, coffeehouses and restaurant chains. The majority of visitors eagerly wrap their wet umbrellas in a plastic bag before entering the building.
Not so long ago, plastic umbrella covers were also used in public buildings. Nonetheless, as of May 2018, the Seoul Metropolitan Government decided to stop using disposable plastic umbrella bags at public buildings and subway stations as a part of efforts to reduce the use of disposable products.
Seoul Government is trying to replace umbrella covers with umbrella dryers and water absorbing carpets.
3. Cup sterilizers at restaurants
Is there something more exciting when it comes to the cleanliness than three different pairs of slippers? There is. Cup sterilizers are widely used in eating facilities all over South Korea.
From a modest dining room to a fancy restaurant, almost every eating place provides you with a fresh and clean cup from a sterilizer.
As a matter of fact, sterilizers are so popular that you can spot them on different occasions while traveling in South Korea. For instance, some of the renowned Korean oncheons (hot spring spas) are equipped with comb sterilizers.
4. Gloves for eating oily food
Here’s a brilliant idea of how to maintain cleanliness while having dinner. If you order a pork leg or ribs at a restaurant in South Korea, you’ll be supplied with plastic gloves to keep your hands tidy.
What is more, gloves will be included even if you order a similar dish at a street food market stall.
Sometimes, while eating oily food, such as pizza or hamburgers, instead of traditional gloves you’ll get a so-called “Finger Nap” – plastic sanitary gloves which fit on two fingers.
5. Gigantic umbrellas on crosswalks
On a sunny or rainy day, you will be thankful for this invention. Huge umbrellas located on some crosswalks in Seoul offer so much appreciated shelter for pedestrians while waiting for a green light.
Enormous umbrellas can accommodate a number of people, and it is a simple but great idea of how to make a city more friendly.
6. Robot guides at the airport
If you are flying from Incheon Airport in Seoul, there’s a big chance you’ll meet Airstar – a robot, which is roaming freely in departure and arrival halls.
A dozen of robots are introduced at the airport to offer assistance for passengers. Incheon Airport claims to be the first in the world putting robots into service.
Airstar robots are equipped with a self-driving technology, a voice recognition system, an artificial intelligence, and touch-screen panels. Therefore, passengers can use touchscreens to download the airport’s map or ask a robot about their check-in counter.
Robots can even guide travelers to their gates or take photos of passengers and send them to their emails.
Robotic helpers provide information in four languages – Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese.
Although robots were introduced to provide passengers with useful information, many travelers still use them for entertainment.
7. Cell phone chargers at bus stops and toilets
In many countries, phone charging stations can be found at restaurants, cafes, airports or bus stations.
But South Korea went a bit farther. Business Fondue journalist noticed public phone charging stations at bus stops, subway stations, and even public toilets. In some of these charging stations, cables are provided too.
Convenience stores also offer a cell phone charging service, although they can take a small fee.
Nowadays, when a phone battery seems never to last long enough, public charging stations is a very useful feature.
8. Seats for pregnant women in a subway
In South Korea, a special seat for a pregnant woman is reserved in subway trains.
Although sometimes you can notice a man or an elderly woman sitting in this spot, most of the time, it just stays empty, waiting for the right person to come. This place often stays unoccupied even during rush hour.
Some of the seats are marked with a stuffed toy. In that case, as we observed, commuters are a lot more hesitant to occupy the place.
9. Table water for free
The moment you settle yourself at a restaurant table, you’ll be served with a bottle of table water. It is always for free, and you’ll get it without even asking for it.
10. Public foot spa
Hundreds of hot springs, well-known for their health benefits, are located around the country.
While the abundant number of spas lure visitors to soak into warm water for a fee, some cities have opened free footbaths for the public. Daejeon and Busan cities are the most famous for open-air foot pools.
11. Rice cookers in a guesthouse
There’s something about Koreans and their love for a rice cooker. A rice cooker full of warm rice probably will be at your service wherever you go – at a restaurant, a guesthouse, or your friend’s house.
You can even find a rice cooker in a hotel room if it is equipped with a kitchen. However, in such case, you’ll have to cook rice by yourself.
12. Non-smoking public zones
Non smokers will be impressed by the number of smoke-free public areas in Seoul.
Thousands of bus stops, parks, subway and public buildings’ entrances, streets, areas near kindergartens have been declared non-smoking zones in recent years.
Any spotted violator faces fines of up to 100,000 won ($84 or €75).