And on the taxi front…

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As you know, catching a cab at night can be a real pain in the ass. Not that there’s no taxis, mind you. It’s just that the drivers can be very selective in who they pick up. If you’re not going in the driver’s direction, or your fare just isn’t big enough, well, good luck.

Things may be changing, however.

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.

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.
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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.

Sounds good, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Seoul City has also been busy trying to rid its taxi fleet of drivers with criminal records. In 2006, ex-cons were banned from becoming new drivers, and in 2012, a law was passed banning individuals who’ve served time for murder, robbery, rape, fleeing the scene of an accident, habitual theft, habitual drunk driving, molestation, sex crimes against minors or buying sex from driving a taxi for up to 20 years from the end of their sentence.

It’s also conducting regular criminal record checks on new and existing drivers, cancelling the taxi licenses of those with records. In 2013, the city cancelled the licenses of 64 drivers, and this year, they’ve cancelled the licenses of 23 drivers through November.

The city brought this up because the Hankyoreh ran a story on a 44-year-old Seoul taxi driver who just got sentenced to 10 months in jail for molesting a young woman in his cab in Mapo in July. What made this especially bad was it was the guy’s fourth sexual offense – he’d sexually assaulted a female student when he was 16, did two years in the can for sexual assault in his 20s, and in 2010 was booked again for molesting a passenger in his cab. He had been able to keep driving because his first two offenses happened prior to 2006 and the 2010 victim dropped her complaint after an out-of-court settlement was reached.

Taxi drivers are also victims of crimes, too, and not just by drunken off-duty American GIs. To make drivers feel safer, Seoul City has decided to install partitions around the driver’s seats of its taxis, beginning with cabs driven by women drivers. If the results are good and the drivers like them, the city plans to expand the program to all taxis.

Photo by john and carolina.