Recent Legal Issues on Smart Mobility in Korea
Various forms of personal mobility are emerging and users who use them are also increasing rapidly. Due to the lack of relevant regulations in Korea, it is necessary to improve the legal system urgently so that the market can be developed centering on the development of technology and new transportation means. In particular, electric wheels and electric quick discs have been classified as ‘motor bikes’ in the past. Smart mobility like electric wheels is legally classified as a ‘motorbike’ in Korea and ‘motorbikes’ cannot pass on sidewalks or bicycle roads. In order to travel on the motorway, a license must be provided for persons aged 16 years or older even though electric bicycle users cannot use a motorcycle license or any kind of ordinary driver’s license. and safety devices as well as protective equipment must be provided. Electric bicycles are not bicycles in Korea’s legal system, so bicycle-only roads are not available for smart mobility vehicles like electric bicycles. Since the laws regulating electric wheels are not yet refined in Korea, the insurance companies are refrained from making related products and therefore compensation is not done properly. In the event of an electric wheel accident, the user takes all responsibility, and in case of an accident caused by a mechanical defect, the burden of proof is upon the user. Smart mobility should not be classified as a motor bike, but as a separate means of transportation. The amendment of the Road Traffic Act, which provides relevant traffic regulations, is essential. Recently, Yoon Jae-ok, a member of the National Assembly, took the initiative in drafting the amendment bill of the Road Traffic Act as a legislative bill reflecting the results of discussions with related ministries. By establishing a reasonable criteria for various transportation means including smart mobility, traffic safety and convenience can be guaranteed. This kind of improvement of safety and convenience related with smart mobility will help not only users of smart mobility but also people around related industry areas for their industry’s growth.
Recently, electric motors and battery technologies have been greatly developed, and various types of transportation means such as electric wheels, electric kick boards, and electric bicycles have emerged. They are collectively defined as smart mobility. Nowadays, these new personal transportation means are still considered a tool for leisure, usually to be rode around the playground , but smart mobility is increasingly being used as a means of commuting because of its convenience, the benefit of low cost as well as the pleasure of boarding.
Although the use of smart mobility is growing rapidly, institutional environment is not yet fully available. For example, smart mobility like electric wheels is legally classified as a ‘motorbike’ in Korea and ‘motorbikes’ cannot pass on sidewalks or bicycle roads. In order to travel on the motorway, license must be provided for persons aged 16 years or older and safety devices as well as protective equipment must be equipped. However, in reality, the population using smart mobility is increasing regardless of age. In order to solve these kind of problems, it is necessary to improve the institutional environment in the same context that the related laws were recently revised to permit the passage of electric bicycles on bicycle roads.
Ⅱ. Development and Evolution of Smart Mobility
- IBOT and Segway
The history of personal mobility began with the invention of special wheelchair named IBOT in 2001 by a man named Dean Kamen. One day, he found out that a disabled person in a wheelchair usually cannot turn around on a narrow road, and decided to invent a wheelchair that could overcome this problem. The result was the IBOT. This chair with two wheels which move back and forth in turn made a real breakthrough because it enabled the user to climb stairs freely. Dean Kamen later thought that the technology would be useful not only for people with disabilities but also for the general public. The special balancing device used on the IBOT was improved to produce Segway, an early model of smart mobility.
However, Segway failed to become popularized because of its high price and weight. Recently, Chinese companies took interest in personal mobility and actively produced related products, thus realizing more realistic prices. In particular, a smart mobility named Ninebot in China started out as an imitation product of Segway was created. In recent years, Xiao Mei, famous for its smartphone, has annihilated the price wall by releasing a personal mobility device to be sold at 1999 Chinese Yuan. Once the price reduced, it became accessible for everyone.
- Recent commercialization of Smart Mobility around the world
Recently, after the rapid development of smart mobility, various miniature electric vehicles appeared in urban areas all around the world. Following this trend, Toyota has also developed i-Road. Smart mobility like the miniature electric car is not only meaningful as a cutting-edge means of transportation, but also it can change people’s lifestyle. Increasing number of people are using smart mobility in everyday life to travel short distance because the new vehicles are easily rechargeable and can be maintained at a low cost.
III. Problems of the laws regarding smart mobility
- Smart Mobility-related Traffic Accidents in Korea
To prevent accidents caused by new personal transports in Korea, establishment of safety standards should be preceded. In recent years, many accidents have occurred due to the introduction of affordable new personal transportation. According to the Korea Consumer Agency, the number of electric wheel-related traffic accidents has rapidly increased from 3 in 2013 to 26 in 2015. The number of related accidents is on the rise due to the surge of electric wheelhouse shops in tourist areas since 2014. Electric wheel-related accidents resulted in bruises and fractures (29%), concussions (22.6%) and abrasions (16.2%).
Nevertheless, since the laws regulating electric wheels are not yet refined in Korea, the insurance companies hesitate to provide related products and therefore the injured cannot receive proper compensation. In the event of an electric wheel accident, the user takes all responsibility, and even in case of an accident caused by a mechanical defect, the burden of proof is imposed upon the user. According to the Korea Consumer Agency, 23 out of 23 tourist spots nationwide (82.6%) operate without compensation liability insurance. However, minimum safety standards for new personal transportation such as the electric bicycle has been introduced.
- Controversy over the rights of electric bicycles in Korea
According to the Road Traffic Act, electric bicycles are classified as ‘motor bikes’. This constrains the users’ utilization of electric bicycles. According to the law, electric bicycles are not bicycles, so bicycle-only roads are not available for smart mobility vehicles like electric bicycles.) According to Article 2 of the Road Traffic Act, a motorcycle is defined as a vehicle with less than 50cc capacity and rated output of less than 0.59kW when driven by electricity. Smart mobilities like electric wheels, electric kick boards, etc. are classified as motor bikes, not as motorcycles. Since driving on bicycle roads or sidewalks is illegal, in order to travel on motorways with smart mobilities, the following conditions must be met.
|– Article 50 (Specific driver’s compliance): The driver must wear personal protective gear.
– Article 80 (Driver’s license): Obtain a motorcycle license for a Type 2 driver’s license
– Article 82 (Reason for Disqualification of Driver’s License): License can not be obtained under the age of 16
– Article 154 (Penalty): Fined up to 300,000 won or detained under unlicensed driving
( Road Traffic Act)
IV. Recent change around the legislation environment of smart mobility in Korea
As mentioned above, personal means of transportation have become a headache that hinders public safety. At the same time, the National Police Agency, the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy stated they discussed measures for managing personal transportation. Yoon Jae Ok, a member of the National Assembly Security Steering Committee, led the Korean National Assembly to reflect the results of the ministry’s legislative initiative. The amendment regulates motorcycle bikes with a displacement of 125 cc or less and a maximum rated output of 11 kilowatts (kW) or less when powered by electricity and smart mobility can be also regulated by this clause.In addition, a motorcycle which weighs less than 30 kg and stops operating its motor when its running speed is over 25 km per hour can be legally classified as personal mobility and can be regulated by this clause. Also, this amendment will enable smart mobility users to ride their mobility on bicycle path, unlike motorcycle users. In addition, the provision is added to ban children under the age of 13 from riding smart mobility without a guardian.
Smart mobility, which is currently recognized as a means for leisure and play, is likely to become personal transportation device in a short period of time considering the speed of technology development and the increase of the population. In particular, it can be used as a means of transportation because it is easily carried, cheap, and with the development of battery technology, allows long distance travel. In this era of smart mobility, institutional support is necessary for safe and convenient transportation.
As mentioned above, smart mobility market is expected to continue to expand, and various types of personal mobility are continually emerging in the market all around the world, including South Korea.. In recent years, various personal mobile devices, such as electric wheels and electric quick discs, have attracted attention as a new short distance transportation means, and users are increasing rapidly. This is the reason why we should give our attention to smart mobility and its legal issues even though smart mobility is not yet enough to become a means of long distance transportation.
Further development of personal mobility is dependent on the development of the legal system to support it. With it, personal mobility will ultimately become the future of green transportation. In this regard, we should welcome the attempt to improve the insufficiency of the existing Road Traffic Act. Especially, the recent amendment proposal of the Road Traffic Act can improve the environment for the development of means of transportation like smart mobility by newly and legally defining smart mobility. Also, the improvement of the system for new personal transportation can guarantee users the right of passage as well as safety. By establishing a reasonable criteria for various transportation means including smart mobility, traffic safety and convenience can be guaranteed. Furthermore, it is expected that these changes will lead to the growth of the personal transportation industry.
Revised Road Traffic Act not only supports industry directly related with this device, but also affects other industries. It is expected that related industries like electric drive motor, electric wheel, battery for smart mobility will be revitalized with the improvement of related laws regarding new transportation methods. Improvement of user convenience by revising related law is expected to positively affect not only users of smart mobility but almost everyone in related industries.
 홍의표, 개인형 이동수단(Personal Mobility) 관련 법제 개선 방안, 법제이슈브리프(2016.10.19), available at http://www.klri.re.kr/kor/publication/pubReportTotalView.do?seq=694&gbn=A&typeCd= (last visited 20th Jul 2017).
 신병철, 자전거 등 개인이동수단의 미래① – 이 길이 그 길인가?, 머니투데이(2012.7.16).
 미래형 교통수단 ‘스마트 모빌리티’ 시대, 한국경제매거진(2017.3.13).2012.07.16
 빈미영, 류시균, 김채만, 김점산, 스마트모빌리티세상, 이슈&진단(2012.11) 제74호, at 1-24.
 전동휠 대여서비스, 소비자 안전 대책 미흡, 한국소비자원 생활안전팀(2016.1.19), Available at http://www.kca.go.kr/brd/m_32/view.do?seq=1969&multi_itm_seq=0 (last visited 20th Jul 2017).
 윤재옥 의원 등 10인,  도로교통법 일부개정법률안, 대한민국국회, available at http://likms.assembly.go.kr/bill/billDetail.do?billId=PRC_N1D7T0D6L0Z8P1J5U2E5P2J8L4W4K7 (last visited 20th Jul 2017).