Driving Korea: Driver to Driver Non-Verbal Dictionary

Korean traffic

Driving Korea: Driver to Driver Non-Verbal Dictionary

Driving in Korea is often described as crazy or chaotic.  Although, at times, it looks like everyone is driving any way they want with full disregard of traffic rules, I like to call it an ‘ordered chaos’.  There are many rules Korean drivers follow when breaking traffic laws that make it safer.

I have been driving for 25 years (10 years in Korea). When I first arrived in Korea, I thought I would never dare drive, but a new job forced me to get my Korean Driver’s License and buy a used car.  Since then, I have learned how to drive and survive the Korean roads.

Over the years,  I have had multiple accidents, most are not my fault, but luckily I have never been really hurt.  I tend to be a smart driver and, true, I adopted a disregard for a lot of rules, but I do so when there are no or few cars around.

After 10 years of driving in Korea, I have created this driver to driver no-verbal dictionary that Korean drivers use to communicate with each other on the road.  You will quickly notice that most of it is negative communication. Warning: I translated it into English with the appropriate colorful and bad words.

Lack Of Communication

The first thing you will notice when driving in Korea is a lack of conventional driver to driver communication.  It seems signally to change lanes is optional as well as using your hazards to notify other drivers of dangers on the road.  Just assume that your not going to get the proper signals when driving the roads of Korea.
hazard lights korea driving

Hazard Lights

Hazard lights are usually a positive message and the common method of communication for Korean drivers.  They have six main meanings that you should know if you plan to drive in Korea.

  1. “Sorry” – Sorry for an action. For example a car cuts in front of you, they will turn on the hazard lights to say “sorry”.
  2. “Thank you” – Maybe you just let a car cut in front of your car.  He will use his hazards to say “thank you”.
  3. “Stop!” – If a car needs to slow down suddenly or even stop, they will use the hazards as a clear warning sign for all cars behind to slow down and not hit them from behind.
  4. “Warning” – Like driving through fog or a tunnel, a lot of drivers keep their hazards on.  Many buses drive their entire routes with the hazard lights on to just get that extra safety.
  5. “Help” – A car is at the side of the road, stopped.  Maybe he has car damage and is waiting for a tow truck.
  6. “I’m Parking here” – A car found a parking spot and lays claim to it by driving near it and switching on the hazards lights.

Soft Horn Honking

Soft horn honking is when a driver usually gives a slight bump on their horn to politely notify another driver or pedestrian of some small problem

  1. “Excuse me, but please move” – A quick bump on the horn usually tells pedestrians to move their ass out of the way.  Many times you may have to drive down a road that is shared with pedestrians, but they are walking slowly in front of the car. A slight bump on the horn and usually everyone moves out of the way.
  2. “Go  already” – When the light turns green and the car in front doesn’t move because the driver is checking his tweets, a slight bump tells him wake up and go.

Hard Horn Honking

Hard horn honking is when a driver continually presses down on their horn creating a quite irritating sound.  It is an international message of anger in all countries and it is always bad.  If you hear this, then you are doing something very wrong.


  1. “I hate you!” – The person behind you is pissed at your actions and wants you, the cars around and people sleeping in the neighborhood to know.
  2. “Watch Out!” – The person is about to do something illegal like going through a red light and just hits the horn continually to alert all drivers of his traffic violation.  By alerting the whole universe around him, he almost guarantees everybody will notice him and not hit him. It’s better to be an asshole than dead.

angry korean driver

Cut in Front of Your Car Fast

A car may cut in front of you really fast giving you no time or almost no time to swerve to avoid an accident.  If you do indeed hit them, then it is your fault because if you hit anything in front of you, it is 100% your fault.


  1. “I Want you to suffer!” – If you really pissed someone off, they may take drastic and potentially dangerous action against you to scare and punish you.

Intentional Sudden Stops

A driver just decides to hit the breaks and stop as fast as he can.  There is nothing in front of the driver to cause him to suddenly stop.


  1. “Let’s die together!” Again, if you caused another driver Korean road rage, they may just stop in front of you allowing you to almost hit them or hit them.  If there is an accident, expect to pay a lot of money to fix his car, your car and his trip to the hospital weather required or faked.

Flicking Headlights

If there is a car flicking his headlights behind you then you made him or her angry.


  1. “You are fucking bothering me” – Someone is really angry at you, so they flick their front headlight repeatedly. They drive behind you, following you and just flicking their head lights. Feel their frustration and giggle as this is the worst they can do to you.
  2. “Move your ass now!”  A car maybe driving really fast on the highway and if you are driving the speed limit in the fast lane in front of him, he will flick his lights to tell you to move out of the way right now.  If you don’t move out of the way, expect more childish flicking.This also occurs when you cut into a lane were a driver is forced to slow down to allow you in. This really pisses them off.

cat driver korea

High Beam Abuse

A driver switched from low-beams to high-beams when it is not required.


  1. “Take That Asshole!” If you are really angry at someone, just drive behind them and switch on your high beams.  Your high beams will reflect off the front driver’s mirrors irritating and hurt his eyes. A good way to get some revenge or just punish another driver.


A driver drives quickly behind you and tailgates you.


  1. “Speed up” – The driver is telling you that you are going to slow for that lane, so you should speed up or get out of the way.
  2. “I don’t like you” – Again, someone just wants to tell you that they don’t like your driving.


The Finger

Raise your middle finger and stick it out the window towards a target driver.  Koreans don’t really do this, but they understand it when I do.


  1. “Hey Asshole!” – tell them that they are an asshole for whatever reason.

the finger in korea

Road Rage Korea

Well I hope this articles about Korean driver to driver communication helps you avoid an accident and stay safe. These are also good to know when you want to express your feelings to another driver. I experience these road rage incidents almost daily. Korean can be easy to upset especially since my car is old and dirty, therefore a lower class that should yield to the better cars.

asian driver meme

If you enjoyed the article, please like and share.

I value all comments below, so let me know about your Korean driving experiences.


  • U should report these road rage incidents, especially cutting in fast or sudden stops. Korean govt nowadays are cracking down hard on revenge driving and hands out mandatory prison sentence.

  • Wow, nice article. This just shows me Korean drivers are more self absorbed than I originally thought. I have lived here for nearly ten years, and what I hate most is all the horn honking when there is no cause for it. Often people honk at a car that is slowing down to make a right turn, has their signals on to give fair warning, and can’t switch to another lane because some idiot is parked in a no parking zone next to the curb. I am amazed at the total lack of regard for people out walking or in their homes resting like they are supposed to care because someone is angry on the road, yet also have to suffer because of their noise. I bought some ear protectors like the ones people use when shooting guns and use those while riding my bike because of the sudden shock of someone behind me laying on the horn. In these situations, I have made sure to move to the center lane of the lane, so there is no way the driver can pass, slow down for further annoyance, and give long, glaring, unmistakable finger. Sometimes, I will slap the car as it passes to let the driver he should check his actions. I have dreamt of hurling squishy fruit or firing paint balls at the offender for overusing his horn, but that would just get me in trouble with the police. So, I think the finger sends a nice message since it is unexpected in Korea.


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