No foreigners‘ taxi trips to Mt. Nam
By Kim Rahn
Foreign tourists will not be able to access areas on the top of Mt. Nam via taxi from next month, Seoul City Hall said Monday.
The ban is based on Seoul City’s decision not to provide the transportation option any longer to foreign visitors. Currently, taxis can’t take Koreans to the mountaintop.
The ban will be effective on May 10 after a month grace period.
City officials say that the ban is also aimed at protecting foreign tourists from cabbies who try to overcharge them, as well as to abolish “reverse discrimination.”
The city has banned the passage of vehicles on the mountain to preserve nature and offer visitors a more agreeable environment for walking. People are obliged to walk, take a cable car, or ride a shuttle bus up the parkway leading to the main tower.
All vehicles have been banned on the northern part of the circular road since 1996, while only shuttle buses or special-purpose cars, such as those carrying the disabled, have been allowed on the southern part since 2005.
But taxis carrying foreign nationals have been an exception to this rule: the city has allowed them on the southern part to offer foreign travelers easier access to promote the tourist attraction.
Taxis usually climb the mountain through a checkpoint in front of the National Theater of Korea, where a city official checks the passengers’ passports to confirm they are not Korean.
“We had the exception for foreign tourists’ convenience. But it was found that some cabbies overcharged foreigners, degrading Korea’s image. So we decided to close the road to all taxis,” a city official said.
During an intensive crackdown for the last two weeks, the city detected 15 cases where taxi drivers took advantage of the foreign passengers’ unfamiliarity with Korea’s traffic system.
“For example, a driver carrying four passengers charged 10,000 won to each of them, totaling 40,000 won, while the original fare might have been about 6,000 won if charged by the meter,” the official said.
He said the cheating is more serious when people go down the mountain than when going up.
“When the shuttle bus operation ends, foreign travelers have no other means than taxis to get back to their hotels. They were helpless but paid what the cabbies wanted,” he said.
The favoritism toward foreigners has also been criticized for discriminating against Korean citizens. “The measure also aims to be fairer to Koreans, reducing the total number of vehicles at the mountain by cutting the number of taxis. Tourist buses carrying a minimum of 12 passengers will be allowed as they used to be,” the official said.
Regarding the policy, Avis Lo, a tourist from Hong Kong, said she visited Mt. Nam on Sunday via the shuttle bus as her guidebook instructed.
“But some tourists don’t know how to take the bus. I think the taxi ban may inconvenience foreigners who don’t know about it,” she said.