By Kim Rahn
The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said Monday that the basic taxi fare nationwide is to increase to 2,800 won this year and 4,100 won in five years time.
The plan comes amid the industry's call to include taxis as public transport so that they can receive state subsidies. The demand has so far been opposed by the government, citing budgetary constraints.
Current fares differ from municipality to municipality, ranging between 2,200 won and 2,800 won and that of Seoul, 2,400 won.
The current fares are expected to reach 4,100 won by 2018, about the level of the average of 10 OECD nations; then by 2023 to 5,100 won, equivalent to the average in the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Japan.
The ministry plans to finalize the scheme in April after consulting with experts and the public.
"Korea's taxi fares have long been said to be low compared to other nations with similar economic status. We aim at raising it to the OECD average level," a ministry official said.
The authority will also review fare hike plans every two years from the current three years, and adopt various charging systems such as a fuel surcharge. It will gradually grant each municipality the right to decide on fares, while the government controls it for now.
Believing that an oversupply of taxis is one of the major reasons for the taxi industry's financial difficulty, the ministry also plans to reduce the number of taxis from the current 250,000 nationwide to 230,000 by 2018 and 200,000 by 2023.
"Through the fare hike and other measures, we think cab drivers' monthly income will jump from the current 1.5 million won to 2 million won by 2018 and 2.5 million won by 2023. Those measures will improve the financial conditions of the drivers and taxi companies without re-categorizing taxis as public transport," the official said.
As a separate measure to prevent crimes committed against or committed by taxi drivers, the ministry will promote the installation of a partition between the driver's seat and passenger seats.
All taxis will be required to install airbags in front seats, and taxi firms will have to have their drivers undergo a sobriety test before going on duty.