Seoul Government Cracks Down on Korean Taxi Drivers

South Korean taxi drivers have been refusing to take certain passengers late at night. By law, they are required to pick-up all passengers. However, some of them choose passengers based on whether the fare is worth the distance, and whether the fare goes in the same direction as their drive home, refusing other passengers and leaving them stranded. This conduct has led to many citizen complaints, and led the Seoul government to come up with a penalty– heavy fines.

Article from Money Today:

If Taxi Drivers Refuse Passengers Even Once, Hefty Fine of 200,000 Won ($183)

To decrease the number of taxi drivers refusing passengers around the end of the year, the Seoul City and Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency have decided to work together to push forward regulations strengthening the crackdown on taxi drivers, and increasing the supply of alternative transportation.

seoul taxi drivers refuse passengers 2

On Dec. 16, the city announced that it was putting forth these regulations because taxi drivers are still refusing to take passengers late at night despite the continuing crackdown.

The number of reported incidents of taxis refusing passengers has decreased by 38.9% when comparing October this year to last year, but in some areas in the city, the problem still exists, causing headaches for the citizens.

To eradicate these unlawful acts, the government says it is necessary to strengthen measures and has plans to intensively crackdown on taxi drivers who commit these acts. Until Dec. 31st, in 24 regions where taxis have persistently been turning away passengers, the government plans to deploy a total of 397 people, including 120 Seoul city government employees and 277 policeman, as well as 4 regulation vehicles equipped with CCTV.

They will pay attention to and expose actions such as refusing passengers, extended stopping, and soliciting. They will also go after taxis that turn off their signs indicating availability, and choose passengers to pick up.

Starting from this month, the city will also without exception fine transportation company representatives for refusing passengers even if it’s a first time act. They will not give warnings for first offenses and will fine drivers 200,000 won without exception.

At Gangnam Station, Hongik University Station, Jongro 2-ga station, and Yongdeungpo Station, there are also crackdowns against Kyunggi and Incheon Taxis that illegally conduct business. Every Friday this month, they plan to work with private operators and labor unions of personal and corporate taxis to deploy a total of 279 people, who will take empty cars to Seoul to pick up passengers. Simultaneously, they will teach these people about the regulations surrounding the crackdown and give them guidance.

In addition, the city plans to expand their support for and increase the number of late night taxis. They plan to increase the less than 6000 won support for fees to a maximum of 10,000 won.

Until the end of this month, in regions where taxis are commonly refusing passengers, 92 inner city buses that service 10 routes will extend their service hours, running from 12:00 PM midnight to 1:00 AM. These routes are: Hongik University Station, Gangnam, Jongro, Shinchon, Yeongdeungpo, Yeoksam, Yeouido, Konkuk University Station, Guro and Myungdong.

In Gyeonggi region, three buses that go through Seongnam, Buchon and Goyang will also extend their service from midnight to 2AM in the morning for citizens’ convenience. These buses are the 661 (Yeongdeungpo to Buchon), 707 (Shinchon to Goyang), and 0404 (Gangnam to Seongnam). Notices about the bus routes and changes in service time have been posted in each bus terminal, and citizens can also check the times on the “Seoul Transportation Portal” app.

Kim Kyung-ho, the Director of Seoul City Transportation says, “I look forward to seeing the joint crackdown effort between Seoul City and the Seoul City Police Department help eradicate incidents of refusing passengers and speeding taxis, and lead to noticeable improvements in taxi service.”

Comments from Naver :



tnlf****[Responding to above]:

Taxi fares are so expensive.


Because taxis are acting like this, they shouldn’t obtain the status of being considered public transportation. [Note: There has been some debate over legally acknowledging taxis as public transit.]


Wow, last time I was refused by a taxi twice, so I eventually just gave up and walked…I’m so mad.


Take away their taxi licenses.


Will they be able to catch one out of ten occurrences?


When it’s written that the taxi takes credit cards, why do they sigh when you pay with a card?


It’d be nice if members of the National Assembly had to give 200,000 won every time they lied.


Although it’s not in Seoul, “We don’t refuse passengers” is written on taxis and they don’t refuse passengers. But they whine and grumble as if they want passengers to hear them. Can we do something about making the passengers in the car feel uncomfortable?


These mean groups of people who refuse to take passengers, yet demand the status of public transportation.


I waited near Jonggak Station for an hour trying to get a taxi, but they refused to take me, so I took took a late night bus. Please crackdown heavily on them.


Actually when it comes to refusing passengers, when you say “Please take me to x,” and they say “I can’t,” this is refusing passengers. What about the taxis that open the window one centimeter, lock the door, and drive around? They should be caught and have to pay a fine too. What empty policies.


It’s tiring to hear the excuse that they do so because of the money taxis have to pay companies from their daily earnings. Stop being picky with passengers.


When it’s too far to walk, but close by car, it’s good to take taxis. But I don’t want to get grumpy looks from the drivers, so I just end up walking.


I should buy a hidden camera. I’ll record it and report it all.

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  • Mr. Bojangles

    I don’t know how many times at night I’ve been passed up by empty taxis in Itaewon, Jongro, and Kangnam. An additional 400 public workers plus vehicles equipped with CCTV to crack down on this epidemic? Yes please and thank you!

  • Chucky3176

    They’re not going to pick you up if your destination is not worth the drive at night. They’re going to pick up someone who’s going their way so that they can end their shifts. They’re not going to pick someone up, take him to one end of the town, then drive all the way back across again to go home. With extremely cheap fairs, they would be losing money.

    The problem is this.

    Like lot of things, Koreans have it so good with taxis that cost a fraction of what costs in other countries, they just don’t appreciate what they got until they lose it.
    If Koreans want better service, then they shouldn’t mind if the taxis jack up the prices by three times, so that these drivers can actually make a decent living. But the government artificially caps the prices, forcing the taxi companies into offering bargain prices.

    These taxis don’t even get tips. They should be earning similar to what the taxis in the US and Canada charges. And gas is a lot more expensive in Korea. But Koreans get what they paid for. Otherwise, Koreans should stop complaining and thank the taxi drivers who are willing to work so hard for so little. I have a 67 year old uncle, after a bankruptcy, who drive a taxi for 12 hours and at the end of the day, and after all the deductions, he ends up with $50 bucks in his pocket on an average day. Working almost 7 days a week, maybe taking one Sunday off, once or twice a month, he barely makes 1.5 million Won – less than $1500 a month. Most of the taxi drivers are not much better, if not worse. You can barely live on those minimum wages.

    • Boris

      Is there an alternative mode of transport at night (if you don’t have your own) other than taxis?

      I’ve not been to Seoul in a few years but my experience was that around 11-12 at night the subway system shuts down and the same for the buses (though they may be earlier). So something like 11pm to 6am you only have taxis as a mode of transport. The prices were something between 2,500-3,000 won for the first few minutes and then it adds a bit (forgot how much) every few seconds back then. If you triple that it would be 7,500-9,000 won, so pretty much you would end up with no choice but either walking or paying a very high price for a ride home.

      • Bryan Cheron

        Your need for transportation doesn’t (shouldn’t) mean they have to give it to you, but in any case, raising the rates would take care of that problem.

        • bigmamat

          Yeah it does. Seoul is a city that never shuts down right? Then why does public transportation shut down so early? Don’t a lot of people work late into the evening as well as do their after work thing? Seoul needs to keep the subways and buses running longer hours at least in high traffic neighborhoods. They could also have a split rate for taxis that goes up after say 1pm so it’s more attractive for the drivers to work later into the night. Certainly the responsibility for “public transportation” shouldn’t be on the backs of one industry. However, the city is responsible for maintaining public transportation.

          • Waz

            i just wish they’d run the green line (Line 2) for 24 hours on Friday and Saturday night. that’s it. just that one line, and just for 2 days a week. hell, even if they shut it down a bit later at 1am and opened it a bit earlier at 4am instead of 5-5:30am like they usually do, i’d be happy.

          • bigmamat

            I just don’t understand why they shut the subways down so early in a city that never really sleeps.

    • Dark Night

      Then by your logic, people should not want to become taxi drivers. Yet somehow there is an endless slew of people trying to enter the market, so much so that taxi licences are sold at a premium. Also, the main reason taxi drivers can’t make a living is not because the rates are too low or because gas prices are too high. Its because there is more supply than demand.
      You are obviously biased as one of your relatives is a taxi driver. If you were actually enraged by Korea’s taxi system, you should be suggesting that your 67 year old uncle retire to decrease the oversupply.

      • Brett

        I don’t see how your comment provides a solution to the problems chucky brought up. Also, how does supply and demand, regarding drivers, keep the fares artificially low?

        That’s akin to saying the reason beef prices are high is because there aren’t enough butchers.

        • TheGrassIsALie

          I think you butchered that analogy…ZING!

          But.. imagine butchers refused to sell people beef because the people didn’t want to buy the cut of meat that was most convenient to prepare…I get angry just thinking about it.

          • Brett

            The analogy works. Think about it a little harder. The guy argued taxi prices are low because there are too many drivers.

            This argument isn’t about beef anyways, although if it were the customer still gets whichever cut they will pay for. Butchers don’t just say “here’s the meat I’m giving you, take it or leave it”.

            Why are you even debating this?

      • Chucky3176

        A ride that would cost $80+ tip, in the US or Canada would cost only around $25. And Korea’s gas prices is around $1.50 a liter, compared to North America which I’m sure has dropped to much lower prices the last few months. That’s why there’s so many taxi’s on streets, because the demand is there due to extremely low prices. If they let the prices rise to normal levels, the number of taxis will drop because the demand will drop. There’s a slew of people wanting to become taxi drivers, not because they’re well paid jobs, but because older people don’t have much choice. Like apartment security guards, taxi drivers also popular jobs for older men. And it’s not easy job at all. People always bad mouth taxi drivers, but you have to look at the other side of this. The taxi drivers have to put up with drunks throwing up in the back seat, bad mouthing/swearing at the driver, refusing pay the fare after the arrival, customers giving you the hard time, even physical assaults. The drivers who work the late night shifts can get the worst crap, every night that they work. I’d rather be a 3D worker than be a cab driver. But for lot of these old guys, they don’t have much choice.

        • sgthappyg

          Gas prices in Korea may be about $1.50 per liter. However, all the taxis in Korea use propane, not gasoline. I don’t know the price of propane but it is much cheaper than gas and burns cleaner for the environment. You can see the propane tank in the trunk of the taxis and this is why you can put very little luggage into the trunk for taxis.

    • Smith_90125

      Your math is a lie. The price on the metre when you get in covers the first 2-3km, then it goes up after that. That means a VERY short trip (under 2km) is profitable, and a very long trip (when the distance metre kicks in) it’s profitable again. The least profitable trips are the ones close to the fixed entry amount.

      Yes, taxi fares could be higher, it was only 1400won for the first 3km back in 2005. People would be willing to pay more if they knew the drivers were more courteous and civilized. Good manners don’t cost any money or time and take very little effort. Those cabbies should try it sometime.

  • Only if there was some alternative to taxis where you could request a ride from, let’s say a cell phone app, and the driver would come and get you. That would be Uber cool to get a Lyft from someone.

    • Boris

      Or public transport, such as buses, at night.

    • Bryan Cheron

      Oh no, we can’t have that! We need the government to stifle innovation; it’s for our own good.

      • Dark Night

        Its mostly because of the Taxi union. I for one would suggest that they pull through with Uber. Last time the Taxi union went on strike, it backfired as the general population enjoyed less traffic congestion, less reckless driving, etc)

    • Jonny B-H

      What a novel idea. I wonder why no one has thought of something like that yet? Let’s go look into it on our Internet Explorer and Naver the crap out of it.

    • goldengluvsk2

      there are like 3 taxi apps where I live that were getting some buzz online earlier this year and on TV but yeah… idt those were that well-known

  • commander

    The article has no mention of how to spot and fine taxi cabbies refusing passengers.

    The most effective method deserving consideration is to give rewards to those who report the misconduct to authorities with evidence, including video clips by smartphones, or audio recordings.

    By doing so, we will see a dramatic decline in the number of passenger-refusing taxi drivers in Seoul.

    • Ken Morgan

      Random trap fares? Kind of like how you see videos of other places (USA/HK/TW/JP/UK) where a black guy hails a cab and it ignores him.

  • 금정산

    Koreans don’t realise how tiresome life is for the taxi drivers, how little they get paid and how cheap taxi fares are.

    Drivers wouldn’t refuse if the trip was worthwhile for them. Show some 정 to your “uncles”. Make an agreement and give them a generous tip for driving you across the city at the end of their shift.

  • MentalistNorth

    Korean Taxi do not know how to drive ( terrible drivers). They seriously need to change the orange tacky taxi color. Does not blend with Seoul city image or Korea image at all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • bigmamat

      Are you saying Seoul isn’t tacky?

  • I got refused 3 times in 10 days. Windows cracked, doors locked, asking “어디가”. These guys should get fined their jobs, not just money.

    • hang

      3 times in 10 minutes isn’t unusual either.

  • Smith_90125

    So nothing ever changes. Korean taxi drivers act the same now as when I was there, back in 2005. Some foreigners I met claimed there was anti-foreigner or anti-white racism, but I never experienced that. It was almost entirely anti-American attitudes. Once they realized I or others weren’t yanks (e.g. I started speaking in French) their attitudes usually changed.

    There are good ways to deal with such assholes:

    1) Open the door and get in before you tell the driver where you want to go. If he refuses to go, get out and leave the door open. On most cab cars, the driver will have to get out and close it himself. It’s not a criminal act, no one can honestly claim you’re trying to damage his car, and it REALLY pisses them off.

    2) Open the door and get in and tell him where you want to do. If he refuses to go, keep the door open but don’t get out. Every minute he’s stuck there not moving, it’s money he’s not making. Make it his loss to refuse your business by keeping him there, unable to move and get another fare. Again, it’s not a criminal act to do it.

    If you’re not willing to do any passive-aggressive stuff, you get an idiot cabbie who refuses to go where you want, and your destination is somewhere near a major point (e.g. subway station, busy intersection), tell the asshole to go there. Some are willing to do it if they know they’re going somewhere they can get another fare.

    • Patricks

      They lock the doors more often now.

  • hang

    If taxi cartels choose to flaunt regulations, then the city should choose to remove their heavily protected market. If drivers can afford to be picky, they are clearly being allowed to charge too much and have too little competition.

  • ytuque

    What about refusing rides to foreigners?

  • goldengluvsk2

    Guess these transportation drama is more common that youd think… They do this were I live but like, 24/7… you have to stop like 5 taxis before 1 actually picks u up… You can actually see the taxi go up and down the street and pass infront of you wasting time and gas when in those 10 mins. he/she could have pick you up and drive you to your destination… their excuse is the traffic jam but if they cant stand it, they chose the wrong occupation…
    Most drive like theyre possessed too when they have a chance. theres -in theory- the official fare but everyone wants to charge u what they like, you cant really complain anywhere because the funny part is that most of them are policemen so, whos going to fine who when they might have a taxi too? lol

  • nineteen85

    So I’m from Singapore, taxis there are about the same price. Yet the only times I have ever been refused are when I’m going in the opposite direction from where they change drivers/shifts close to knocking off time(usually between 4-6pm)

    Yet in Seoul, I have been refused countless times by drivers who refuse to drive up a hill, or make a U-turn(expect you to do the legwork across the road and get another taxi), or won’t go unless you make it “worth their while”, and numerous other bits of nonsense.

    I say it’s high time the government took an active stand on this ridiculousness. Taxi drivers in this country have it good. It’s a generally safe environment, less likelihood of them getting jumped and robbed, or people fare dodging since everyone is so honest. And it doesn’t seem like backbreaking work since they HAVE the comfort of refusing fares. Yet, they behave like the customers owe them.

  • omgwtfbbqhax1

    They should charge them more like 2000 usd

    Or better yet, kill all korean taxi drivers. They are worthless human filths

  • HyunJung Lee

    Taxi drivers said “I don’t know” instead of “I don’t want to go there” even they have GPS. Remember the number plate and register via phone call the Dasan Call Center at 120

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