Police look into newfound taxi gangs

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Police look into newfound taxi gangs

The Gangnam Police Precinct said yesterday that they are investigating reports concerning gangs of taxi drivers who have allegedly organized since 2011 to monopolize long-distance customers and ostracize other drivers to maintain holds over highly populated areas in Seoul.

Authorities say these rings are similar to mobs, and that gang members have blackmailed and assaulted approximately 510 other taxi drivers as well as a 62-year-old civil servant who attempted to issue them tickets.

The police are currently investigating 22 members of those organizations and added that one of them was formerly involved in a street gang.

One 60-year-old taxi driver working in Gyeonggi, who identified himself only as Min, said he had a brutal encounter last October after he gave a customer a ride from Bundang, Gyeonggi, to Gangnam Station in Gangnam District, southern Seoul.

As he waited for another customer there, Min said he was approached by two men who threatened him and asked, “Why is a Gyeonggi taxi here, old man? Go away.”

The two thugs then kicked Min’s car and swore at him. When he came out of the cab to confront them, he said they threw him on the ground and began to beat him.

Min managed to run away, but his injuries from the scuffle were so severe that they took about six weeks to heal.

According to the police, the two men who accosted Min are members of one of three taxi gangs that have formed in Seoul since 2011.

Police allege these taxi rings typically park between the peak hours of midnight and 4 a.m. near Gangnam Station, selecting to take only long-distance passengers. The drivers can usually make between 30,000 won ($28) and 50,000 won per passenger - or more if they load two or more passengers at once.

The gangster cabbies have also been known to push out nonmembers like Min from the area and turn off their engines to avoid crackdowns on cabs that refuse certain customers, according to authorities.

“The mob-like taxi drivers have worsened congestion in these areas, and people can’t easily take taxis, even when there are plenty of them,” a police officer said. “[The police] have suggested that the local government strip these drivers of their licenses.”

BY LEE SEUNG-HO [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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