Cars are symbols of status in many cultures and Korea is no different. Though there are a lot of motorcycles in Korea (and popularity is growing), they are generally not really regarded as status symbols - or so I thought. Korean friends have told me that motorcycle riders are generally looked down upon. While I think that's true to an extent, I find there's a big difference in how I am treated by traffic when out on my scooter compared to when I am out on my sports bike.
When I ride the scooter, people tend to ignore the fact that I am on the road. I generally ride it on short trips (to visit friends or to do my shopping), but other drivers are reluctant to let me merge and don't generally give me a lot of respect. It's completely different when I am on the big bike (possibly because it sounds like a low-flying aircraft). Drivers are extremely courteous, even to the point of waving me across into their lanes for merging. I've had smiles and waves from kids in the back of cars and even from a woman in a car beside me in traffic.Here are a few shots of a rather interesting customised paint-job (hand painted) on a Harley recently spotted in Toegyero.
I've come to the conclusion that unlike in most western cultures, where a big motorcycle is either a sign of living a little outside the mainstream or a midlife crisis, here a big bike of any kind is a significant status symbol. I've been noticing more and more Harley Davidsons and customised choppers getting about the city, and even the occasional sports bike like my Aprilia. There are even HOG rallies: