It's no secret that U.S. President Bush is highly unpopular in South Korea, and most of that is related to a strong sense of worry and dread thanks to the synergy of fear between the War in Iraq and his "Axis of Evil" comments.
But fearing a war on the Korean peninsula is not the only reason to dislike Bush. Many people blame the elective war for skyrocketing oil prices, which means everyday Koreans are paying every day for the war they think was a fiasco to begin with.
Gas prices are through the roof and as they threaten to get higher and higher, this could put a crimp on the Korean economy, the world's fourth-largest buyer of crude oil and a nation that depends entirely on imports for its oil needs. According to a Bank of Korea estimate, "a one-percent rise in oil prices would trim 0.02 percentage point off the nation's economic growth."
For that reason, Seoul is reported to be pushing to give motorists tax and other incentives to prod them to drive less. As part of the move, the government is revamping efforts to get people to leave their cars home at least one business day per week (you may have noticed the round, colored stickers with one day of the week printed on them).
Other ideas appear to be encouraging people to leave the cars at home or in parking lots near public transportation. The good news is that they're trying to use incentives (like lower insurance premiums) rather than mandatory action, since they acknowledge some people simply can't change their driving habits without hardship.
I only hope that the Korean government will rescind the decision to jack up car taxes for LP-gas-powered nine-passenger minivans (like mine, coincidentally), which has led Kia and Hyundai to start producing eleven-passenger minivans that would consume even more fuel!
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