Chuseok Travelers Face Worst Traffic Yet

Travelers leaving for their ancestral hometowns for Chuseok or Korean Thanksgiving next week are expected to suffer severer traffic congestion than last year because the break is shorter.

According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs on Wednesday, it will take up to nine hours to get from Seoul to Busan by car, and seven hours to Gwangju on Sept. 29, the day before Chuseok, when congestion is expected to be worst.

This year it could to take an hour and 40 minutes longer than last year to get to Busan, and an hour and 10 minutes longer to get to Gwangju. The trip from Seoul to Daejeon will take four hours and 40 minutes and to Mokpo seven hours and 30 minutes -- 40 to 50 minutes longer than last year. The trip from Seoul to Gangneung will take four hours and 20 minutes.

But the return trip is likely to be easier since people are expected to stagger it until National Foundation Day on Oct. 3.

In a telephone survey of 8,000 households across the country by the Korea Transport Institute last month, the largest proportion or 34.8 percent of respondents said they would leave for their hometowns on the morning of Sept. 29. Next came the afternoon of the same day with 20 percent, the morning of Sept. 30 with 14.7 percent, and the afternoon of Sept. 28 with 14.4 percent.

For the way back, the biggest proportion or 31.3 percent said they would pick the afternoon of Sept. 30. Next came the afternoon of Oct. 1, the last day of the holidays, with 29.8 percent.

A total of 29.25 million people are expected to go to their hometowns for Chuseok since many can extend the break to six days from Sept. 28 until Oct. 3. But the daily average number of travelers is expected to be 4.87 million people, 8.6 percent fewer than the 5.33 million people last year.

Twenty percent said they have decided not to go to their hometowns this year because the Chuseok holidays alone are too short.

As for means of transport, 81.5 percent will drive in their car, followed by bus (13.9 percent), train (3.6 percent), airplane (0.6 percent), and ferry (0.4 percent).

The ministry pledged to increase the number of train cars and other public transportation services during this period. For people who travel back to Seoul, it will extend the service hours of metropolitan buses and subway trains until 2 a.m. on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

englishnews@chosun.com / Sep. 20, 2012 13:01 KST