[FOUNTAIN]Taxis, taxes, impositions“Taxi” might be one of the words that can be understood everywhere on the planet.
The origin of the word comes from taxa in Latin, which means to evaluate, to impose something on somebody or a fare. The word has the same origin as the word “tax.”
Germany first introduced taxis in the modern meaning. Two Mercedes-Benz taxis were operating in Stuttgart in March 1896. Paris was the next city to adopt taxis, at the end of 1896, followed by London the next year.
Korea introduced taxi service in December 1919. The first taxi company, Gyeongseong Taxi, was established in Namchang-dong, central Seoul by a Japanese businessman. The taxi company had two vehicles, imported from the American company Dodge. A Korean national, Cho Bong-seung, set up a taxi company, Jongno Taxi, three years later.
Taxis have had a bad reputation for overcharging since the days of horse-drawn carriages for hire. Passengers and drivers argue over rates everywhere in the world. Drivers randomly charged fares until the invention of the taxi meter.
London had regulations on taxi fares during the 19th century, but it took a while to get rid of all the disputes and arguments between passengers and drivers.
A New Yorker who got tired of overcharging by taxi drivers established a taxi company that used cars equipped with primitive meters in 1907.
Korea introduced taxi meters in 1992 and taxi drivers were required to attach meters on their vehicles.
If you get into a Seoul taxi these days, you may occasionally see a transparent plastic panel between the back seat and the driver’s seat. Some taxi drivers started to install these panels, costing hundreds of thousands of won, as taxi burglary and theft cases began to rise.
Taxi drivers agree that the number of passengers has dropped sharply, even more than during the financial crisis period in 1997, but they value their safety more than fares. Other drivers said they carry gas guns.
Similar protective devices in taxis have been common since the 1980s in New York City, where crime rates are high. Seoul seems to be catching up in criminal activity.
The fact that burglars disguised as passengers or drivers steal money means that the original word, “taxa,” is still meaningful.
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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