Tougher action for those ripping off passengers
Taking a taxi in Korea is one of the toughest challenges for foreigners. First, it is hard to hail a cab. Then, it is not easy to communicate with the drivers. What’s far worse is that cabbies usually rip off passengers.
A recent episode shocked the public as a driver of “call vans” charged a foreign tourist 330,000 won ($290) for a 2-kilometer ride in downtown Seoul. The sum is 100-times the normal fare. Many foreign residents and tourists have frequently complained about being overcharged, not to mention poor service.
Call vans are only allowed to carry passengers with baggage weighing over 20 kilograms. Drivers may set fares through negotiations with passengers. However, many illegally install meters and manipulate them to overcharge passengers, especially foreign tourists.
The problem of predatory cabbies is more serious on Jeju Island, the second most popular destination after Seoul for tourists from around the world. A group of greedy and unruly drivers at Jeju International Airport has formed a gang-style network to monopolize operations and rip off passengers. They usually quote inflated fares without using meters.
Those drivers do not know what a taxi service really is. Their only purpose is to extort money from the pockets of travelers, both local and foreign. They have even used violence against other taxi drivers who are not part of their group. For this reason, police arrested two of them and booked 17 others for overcharging and violent behavior. Such thug-like drivers are nothing new in Korea. Law-enforcement authorities have already waged a campaign against predatory taxi drivers at Incheon International Airport, Gimpo International Airport and airports in Busan and other parts of the country.
It is, however, regrettable that the greedy and violent cabbies have yet to disappear. They should get the blame for tarnishing the image of Korea among foreign tourists. The authorities should leave no stone unturned to crack down on taxi drivers who rip off passengers in blind pursuit of money.
Policymakers cannot solve the problem without taking a structural approach. The embedded cause is the oversupply of taxis that has sparked fiercer competition. Thus, it is necessary to reduce the number of taxis to ease the competition. It is also important for taxi operators to improve services. Police are required to get tougher with predatory taxi drivers. They should break corrupt ties, if any, among drivers.
The nation has been running the “2010-2012 Visit Korea” campaign. It is expected to attract many as 11 million foreign tourists this year. Eliminating predatory taxi drivers could be the first step to improve Korea’s image as a tourist destination.