As you walk up to any building or place that has double doors you will feel at ease as you see another person approaching at the same time. Why the easy feeling? It’s because you know you will not have to do the “one door tango”, trying to choose who will be the nice guy that lets the other go first and who will be the greedy jerk that accepts the others kindness. Truth be told, we just want to pass through the freakin door!
In Korea there are so many things that are above and beyond convenient. In Korea you can have everything from kitty litter to Mc Donald’s delivered. Usually local products are delivered same day sometimes within 20 minutes ordered from your smart phone as you hide underneath that warm toasty blanket. There are some things which seem senseless that can overtime become unbearable, like the “double door issue.”
With all of this Korean convenience little things start to stick out like sore thumbs, just like that one little black speck in your bowl of white rice that your mind is certain is rat feces. Yeah well you wouldn’t think it but something as simple as a little sign saying” fixed” can over time wear a hole through your very soul.
Why? Why why why must one perfectly working door be locked in every building thinkable? It doesn’t seem like a very big deal at first but Seoul is a very busy place. Everyone is constantly moving at the speed of light and the one thing that can really disrupt that flow is trying to open a perfectly good but locked door.
In a quest for clarincy, a remedy for this insanity an in-depth investigation started to find out just why, why why why was every double door reduced to a single by that evil little sign letting you know, “sorry guy this door will remained closed for no reason at all”. At some point it just begins to feel personal.
During this quest for clarity over 50 people were questioned. Everyone including but not limited to students, ceos, security guards, congressman’s secretary to check possible laws, restaurant owners and older people were all asked spanning the entire South Korean peninsula. No stone left unturned no kimchi left untasted.
What made it all so so So much more worse is no one even had noticed. Those I talked to fully acknowledged what I mentioned was true, one door is usually locked with that little sign that reads,” Fixed Door”. (In my opinion a door that you can’t open is broken, not “Fixed”) No one here had ever questioned it. Having one fixed door was just the way it is here in Korea even if no one knew the reason. “Two doors, make sure you lock one”, for no reason… It’s enough to make your mind snap after the 15th person responds in like manner.
As you can probably guess, since no one noticed one door was always fixed no one had any idea why it remained fixed or locked either. I wasn’t surprised.
Through this research I found many interesting answers some of which are quite entertaining. Fortunately I can say I do feel the correct answer was found which I will of course share.
One of the answers I received was “energy savings”. Having one door locked keeps more warm or cold air inside therefore saving energy. The reason this doesn’t make any sense is because that other door that isn’t fixed, yeah that one is always wide open…
Second and most common answer I received was “safety”. I was told a number of times that double doors can be dangerous because, (here’s the funny part) “Koreans are not as polite as Americans”. Apparently in the US we hold doors open for the next person walking through them which makes double door usage perfectly safe. In Korea they don’t have that common courtesy concept which walking into each other also falls under but that’s another story for another time. So with the Korean mindset since they don’t hold the door open it is very possible the person walking through the opposite way may get slammed somehow with the released swinging door. I’ll let you the reader decide the legitimacy of that one.
The second safety reason was quite simple but equally funny, “double doors are dangerous, you can get stuck in them”. Although I found this funny I will agree that doors here are solid steel. They are not light at all and sometimes difficult to open. However getting stuck in them would be a difficult task.
The most funny answer I found was the one about Korean ancestors. Some believe that the fixed door is kept locked for their dead ancestors to use when they enter and exit the building. It’s a respect thing. Obviously this answer came from the older people. Once again, I’ll leave that to the reader to decide.
The final answer came by accident and I feel it is the most accurate. When talking to a Korean university student who had never noticed that one door was always fixed, they immediately ran down and took a photo. This photo (see below) is what led me to what I feel is the most correct answer.
In the photo you will see on the left side instead of saying “fixed” it says “hold” and on the right side it says “pull”. As I mentioned before Korean doors are quite heavy and even for a larger man it can require a decent amount of strength to open normally. Koreans in general area not large people especially women sometimes only weighing 80 pounds. Older women especially are quite weak and even thinner. If one door is very difficult to open you would need a steady place to push (in this case fixed or “hold”) and one place to pull.
So in conclusion the reason for the one fixed door is to help older or weak people hold onto in order to open the opposite door. This is the same reason that some doors are just left wide open, eating away at electricity but making it easier for weaker people to enter and exit from with ease.
As I said before I can’t say this final answer is 100% correct because there was no exact answer found. I can say however that believing one door is “fixed” to help the weak surely puts my mind at ease every time I slam into what could be a perfectly good working door.
By Jacob Rojas