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Freedom on a Scooter

Posted October. 12, 2007 06:48,   


In January 2006, a young man took off to the United Kingdom to study English. Seated in economy class for a 13-hour flight, his back began to ache and he was exhausted. Arriving in England, he wondered if there was some other way of returning to Korea.

On his return, he faced the winds and dirt of the Eurasian continent. For 5 months he traveled across 20 countries, including England, France, Belgium, Luxemburg, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan, to arrive in Korea in October of 2006. The only companion for Lim Tae-hoon (24) was his scooter.

He rode his scooter over the Alps and into Italy, and even rode it on the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan 4000 meters above sea level and into China.

If images of Chinese food or pizza delivery scooters come to mind at the word, “scooter,” then think again. With its automatic transmission, low and wide foothold, smallish wheels, and relatively spacious trunk, it differs greatly from a motorcycle. Its strongest point, in a nutshell, is that it goes when you ask it to.

Young Koreans are traveling to Jeju Island and the East Sea on their scooters, traveling cross-country these days, the same way they rode bikes some 10 years ago.

It’s not only young people doing this. Director of The King and the Clown Lee Jun-ik (48) is a practical rider who enjoys gallery tours on his scooter.

For short distances, the Korean 2007 version of the military scooter in 1912 is pretty cozy.

Why did he pick the scooter? Having ridden a bike across England once before, he wished to get to places faster. It was speed he wanted, yet he did not want to relinquish seeing the scenery by bike. By car, bus, or train, you can only get from city to city, just like moving from one point on the map to another.

From a wide choice of means of transportation, he discovered the scooter. His first time on a two-wheeler, a manual motorcycle, was a bit too much to handle, but a scooter was just right. He registered a 125cc scooter in Germany because the fees were cheaper than in England. With insurance coverage, he was able to travel throughout the EU freely.

“I was overjoyed at being able to drive to places I wanted to go. So I was able to go to remote villages ordinary tourists wouldn’t have been able to go to.”

With a camp stove, sleeping bag, and tent on the back of his scooter, he slipped a map in his breast pocket and set off.

It was a leisurely trip, where he could stay another day or two in a place if he felt like it. He did have to put up tent for the night after losing his way one time, but another time one elderly French couple gave him a warm welcome.