Unlicensed taxis charge shocking fares

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Unlicensed taxis charge shocking fares


지난 7일 서울 용산구 남산N타워 케이블카 매표소 앞에서 외국인 관광객들이 불법 콜밴을 타고 있다. 콜밴 차량에는 ‘일본어를 할 수 있습니다(日本語ができます)’라는 글귀가 쓰여 있다. [류정화 기자]

After shopping at Dongdaemun market in central Seoul, Kumagai Maoko, a 47-year-old Japanese tourist, decided to head back to her nearby hotel at around midnight on Jan. 29.

As she stood on the side of the street trying to wave down a taxi, a black van pulled up in front of her. The driver popped his head out of the window and said irat shai mase, or “welcome” in Japanese.

A sign reading “Call-Van Taxi” stretched across the door with the sentence “I can speak Japanese” written underneath. Thinking it was another international taxi common in Seoul, Kumagai hopped in and told the driver in Japanese to take her to her hotel, which was only about two kilometers (1.2 miles) away.

The driver eventually pulled up in front of her hotel and demanded 330,000 won ($294) for the cab fare. Kumagai, who works for an airline company and frequently visits Seoul, told the driver that it “shouldn’t even cost more than 20,000 to 30,000 won,” considering it was a van taxi.

The driver locked the door and told Kumagai he wouldn’t let her out unless she paid the 330,000 won. Kumagai paid the van driver and reported the incident to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.

“You shouldn’t let a taxi driver deteriorate the image of Korea,” Kumagai told the police.

Black vans disguised as “call-van” taxis have been swindling foreigners near central Seoul, demanding outrageously high fares for short trips. A legal call-van taxi is typically used by people with over 20 kilograms (45 pounds) of luggage. Although it depends on the company, a trip within Seoul is generally between 20,000 won and 40,000 won.

When a JoongAng Ilbo reporter asked how much it would cost to go to Myeong-dong from Dongdaemun (2.71 kilometers away), the driver said, “The basic rate for the first kilometer is 4,500 won and it goes up 900 won per 60 meters.”

The reporter had to pay 31,600 won.

Although it was a much smaller fare compared to Kumagai’s experience, a base rate for passengers without any luggage taking a call-van taxi is 4,500 won for the first three kilometers.

Call-van taxi operator Limousine Jumbo Taxi said 4,500 won for the first three kilometers should be the fixed rate for all van and deluxe taxis.

“Such call-van taxi drivers earn as much as up to 1.5 million won a day,” said Jeong Sang-geun, a 55-year-old driver of a certified taxi.

By Ryu Jung-hwa, Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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