Seoul to improve taxi services for foreign tourists
SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Wednesday it will increase the number of specialized cabs for foreigners and toughen crackdowns on "call vans," which have been blamed for ripping off tourists, as part of efforts to enhance their convenience.
The move came after several media reports that nagging unfair practices by local cabs on foreign tourists such as overcharging tarnish the national image as a tourist destination.
A total of 500 "international taxis" will be operated in the capital city by the end of this year, which are equipped with interpretation services in English and Japanese and run by drivers who have a good command of the languages, the municipal government said. Currently, 397 such specialized cabs are going into service.
To eradicate illegal rip-offs by the call vans, 48 officials will be dispatched to the city's major tourist attractions such as the Dongdaemun and Myeongdong districts for two months starting in April during the peak spring season for a crackdown, according to the city government.
Under South Korean law, call vans are allowed only to carry passengers with baggage weighing over 20 kilograms with fares being supposed to be set through a negotiation between each passenger and driver. But some drivers install taximeters in violation of the law and alter them to overcharge tourists.
The municipal government said it has also opened a new e-mail address (email@example.com) reserved for foreign tourists who try to report any unfair cases in using the service, while planning to put postings on how to distinguish a call van from a general cab on major overseas Web sites and tourist booklets.
"We will discuss with the land ministry in charge of managing the national transportation system to toughen the punishment for violators from the current monetary penalty to the nullification of their business license," said Paek Ho, an official of the city government.