SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Korea Bizwire) – With relations with China on the mend after months of unspoken economic stonewalling and the upcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics expected to pull in visitors from around the world, the government is deliberating on how best to tackle the problem of taxi drivers overcharging tourists.
According to the Korea Tourism Organization, complaints over excessive taxi fares were the second most frequent after shopping issues. The tourism ministry reported that tourists had filed 164 taxi-related grievances last year, making up 13.7 percent of all complaints registered.
The good news is that improvements are already being seen; average complaints (taxi-related) per month were 18.5 from April through September, a near 50 percent decline from the 30.8 through January 2016 to March of this year.
The drop in the number of reported incidences is attributed to the Seoul city government’s ramping up enforcement of the “three strikes” rule, which dictates that taxi drivers who are found guilty of overcharging a third time are given the “out”, meaning their taxi license is revoked and they must apply for reinstatement after one year’s time. The district offices of Seoul handed over jurisdiction of taxi fare cases to the metropolitan government in March.
The three strikes rule has been in place since February of last year. To better enforce the rule, the city has situated staff fluent in foreign languages around tourist hotspots like the Myeongdong shopping district from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. These city employees have been offering assistance to tourists and checking for suspicious taxi fares.
More changes may be afoot, as the Seoul government office is reportedly deliberating on whether to demand jurisdiction over taxi drivers refusing fares, also from district offices. Countering taxis overcharging foreigners is a topic on the national agenda as well. On November 3, an inter-ministerial meeting attended by members of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism revealed that select areas will have designated flat rate fees. Currently, taxi routes from the airport to specific city destinations are being considered, but meetings with municipal authorities may lead to greater scope.
Some wonder whether the three strikes rule has truly been an effective deterrent; so far, only two taxi drivers have been expelled for three violations, the Seoul government disclosed. In addition, though the frequency of complaints dropped from April through September this year, the period was also when the Chinese ban on tourism to South Korea was at its height, putting a damper on the number of tourists who were in the country throughout.
Lina Jang (email@example.com)