<b>YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea</b> - Since 1974, Yongsan officials have been issuing driver's licenses in pretty much the same way. But now, the 21st century called and said, "plastic is the wave of the future."

"Before, we issued U.S. Forces Korea Form 134EK - the Motor Vehicle Operator's Permit - by filling out a card with a typewriter and also an accompanying record card for our filing system," explained Dr. Yu Song-ki, U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan Driver's License Office supervisor. "We have a large filing cabinet with records of about 9,000 current drivers."

Workers used to fill out an orange paper card with Korean and English typewriters (for those born before 1980, those were machines that put letters on paper at the push of a button). The system was burdensome and slow.

"These days it is difficult to get replacement typewriters," Yu said.

When USAG-Yongsan put the call out earlier this year for employees to get involved in finding efficiencies, saving money and making improvements in the workplace, Driver's License Qualifications Examiner Yi Chun-cha was one of the first to volunteer.

"I have been working for the U.S. government for 26 years; 15 of those years have been here in this office," she said.

The USAG-Yongsan Transportation Officer, Keli'i Bright, had an idea to computerize driver's records and print the necessary data onto a new plastic card (it's still orange). Yi would take his idea to fruition by volunteering for the USAG-Yongsan "Ninja" program - a pilot program developed locally to empower employees to make positive change in the Garrison. In April, Yi attended the two-day Ninja training course, and soon developed the formal proposal to make the change.

"The new cards will not save a lot of money, but they will save a lot of time," she said. "We will be able to issue cards much faster once somebody is in the system."

Yi said they started to enter the old cards in the new database in March.

"We actually issued our first new driver's license on June 2, after USFK approved the new form," she said.

Other garrisons in USFK are still issuing the licenses as usual; however, USAG-Yongsan officials are interested in sharing success stories. Typewriters may finally go the way of the dinosaurs if enterprising employees are around.

For her part, Yi said she is proud she got the ball rolling.

"Now, I'm looking for more projects," she said. "I'm glad to be part of the program to find better ways to do things."

Officials said only new applicants or applicants with expired cards will receive the new plastic driver's license. The new cards are only for privately owned vehicle drivers. The military driver's license will remain the same.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16