During the few days I spent in Seoul recently I noticed something interesting. Something I had never seen in any other country before.
Many of the cars had something unconventional in common — small blue sponges on the doors. I was intrigued, confused even. I had to find out what they are for.
Sadly, they aren't a weird trend reminiscent of the Frangipani decal craze invaded Australian roads in 2004.
No, they actually make perfect sense.
The origins of the rectangular sponges come from the manufacturers. They are attached to the cars for the practical purpose of protection during transit. It helps stops them getting damaged between the factories and dealerships.
They remain on the cars until they're sold... but a lot of people aren't taking them off.
Small car spaces are common in Korea, so it stands to reason that owners want the same protection afforded their cars before they're sold to avoid scratches and dings.
The trend has become increasingly popular since 2013 and now you can see them everywhere on roads in and around Seoul in particular.
I had the chance to test them for myself with our driver's car, and they worked great!
Our tour guide also offered another possible explanation for the prevalence of the little blue sponges — status.
Because they come on brand new cars, she said that some people may leave them on there so they seem like they're fresh from the dealership. Considering that I was hard pressed to find an old looking car on the roads of Seoul, I can certainly believe that.
So while these forms of scratch-protection may look a little odd at first, I've had enough doors opened on my car at various Stocklands carparks to be a convert.