A person could know South Korea for a long time without knowing Wanju, an obscure county 180 kilometres south of Seoul. And, at least until recently, a person could know a lot about Wanju without ever hearing of Cha Sa-soon, a 69-year-old woman who lives alone in the mountain-ringed village of Sinchon.
Now, however, Cha is an unlikely national celebrity. This diminutive woman, now known nationwide as "Grandma Cha Sasoon," has achieved a record that causes people here to first shake their heads with astonishment and then smile: She failed her driverís test hundreds of times but never gave up. Finally, she got her license-on her 960th try.
For three years starting in April 2005, she took the test once a day five days a week. After that, her pace slowed, to about twice a week. But she never quit. Hers is a fame based not only on sheer doggedness but also on the universal human sympathy for a monumental-and in her case, cheerful-loser.
"It felt like a huge burden falling off our back. We didnít have the guts to tell her to quit because she kept showing up," said Park Su-yeon, an instructor at Jeonbuk Driving School, which Cha once attended.
Of course, Park and another driving teacher noted, perhaps Cha should content herself with simply getting the license and not endangering others on the road by actually driving. But they were not too worried about the risk, they said, because it was the written test, not the driving skill and road tests, that she failed so many times.