Van cabs busted for bilking tourists
The police said that a group of suspects manipulated fixed rates of their meters which charge 4,000-5,000 won ($3.69-4.62) for one kilometer (0.6 miles) and 900-1,350 won for 30-60 meters, fairly exorbitant fares compared to the regular cab fees of 2,400 won for two kilometers and 100 won for 144 meters.
“The drivers have mainly targeted foreign tourists who are considered to have less knowledge about the right taxi fares. They drove around tourist-packed areas like Myeong-dong and Dongdaemun shopping centers and Insa-dong to attract travelers,” said Kang Ki-chan, the police officer in charge of the investigation.
The police said that some of the arrested tourist hustlers - including a man only identified by his surname Baek - are also accused of illegally installing taxi roof signs and meters in violation of the law that bans the vehicles from having them.
Among the arrested, Baek is reported to have charged three Singaporean tourists 260,000 won for a 60-kilometer ride from the Western Annex of Seoul Station to Incheon International Airport using his altered meter.
Another suspect is accused of ripping off two Thai tourists with virtually no luggage by charging fares that are almost 10 times the actual rate, according to the police.
The travelers were asked to pay 400,000 won for the distance between Incheon International Airport and Bucheon, Gyeonggi, west of Seoul, but regular fees are estimated around 40,000 won.
One of the arrested, identified by his surname Myung, even locked the door when five Chinese tourists complained about an overcharged fee of 96,000 won from Myeong-dong, central Seoul, to Dongdaemun, eastern Seoul, according to the police.
Some of the arrested are also accused of generating fake receipts with false numbers of different cars in apparent attempts to evade responsibility for the overcharged rate. Predatory call van drivers have long been a headache for their illicit practices. The police recently toughened up the crackdown on the cab drivers by imposing criminal penalties rather than taking administrative actions.
“The illegal practices really take their toll on Korea’s image because the victim tourists usually post complaints on the Web forums. We will keep clamping down on them to prevent such practices,” Kang said.
By Park Eun-jee [firstname.lastname@example.org]