Taxi drivers to lose license for refusing passengers

Photo: Flickr by Mark Zastrow
Chung Hye-min
Written by Chung Hye-min

Good news for those who have been denied a taxi ride for being a foreigner or because your destination was too close for cabbies to consider driving.

From tomorrow, cabbies will lose their taxi driver’s license when caught three times in two years for refusing to accept passengers.

Under the revised law which takes effect on January 29, taxi drivers will be slapped with a fine of 200,000 won ($185) for the first offense of rejecting a passenger and if caught twice, 400,000 won with a suspension of license for 30 days.

If a driver is caught for the third time within two years, the offenders taxi license will be cancelled and they will receive a 600,000 won fine.

Previously, drivers had to pay a fine of 200,000 won with a maximum suspension of license for 20 days.

Taxi companies may also lose their business license if their drivers are found to repeatedly reject customers.

Kim Seong-jae, deputy director at the Korean Taxi Workers’ Union, showed a mixed reaction on the law revision.

“We welcome the move, but the law has many loopholes,” he said.

“People may mistakenly report taxi drivers when they cannot take passengers because they are heading for lunch or going back to the company after their shifts.”

Local governments dispatched regulators at peak times in crowded areas but it had not been effective in reducing the number of passenger refusals.

In Seoul, you can call 02-120 then press 9 to select foreign language service to report on taxi drivers’ refusal to take customers. The service is available in English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Mongolian.

About the author

Chung Hye-min

Chung Hye-min

Chung Hye-min is an intern reporter at the Korea Observer and a junior majoring in history at Dartmouth College. She writes for the student daily newspaper ‘The Dartmouth.” She enjoys writing about campus events on the topic of international affairs. Follow her on Twitter @hannahthechung.

  • John McCrarey

    This has been my number one problem in Korea, and I’ve been here ten years. When my Korean wife is with me, they stop. When it’s just me the either don’t stop, or they crack the window and ask where I’m going, then drive off it they don’t want to take me there. It’s very aggravating.

  • Kat

    “People may mistakenly report taxi drivers when they cannot take passengers because they are heading for lunch or going back to the company after their shifts.”

    Surely the drivers are smart enough to turn the sign off on the top of their taxi when their shifts are over or they’re off to lunch, RIGHT?

    I’ve been refused countless times in my small town because the meter doesn’t go up if they take me home from the train station. But I’m not walking 70 meters to the bus stop or walking 20 minutes to my officetel with a bunch of heavy bags because you’re waiting for a ‘big spender’. And honestly, what’s the most you can make in a small town going from one side to the other? 6,000 won?

    The best was when a driver refused to take my friend and I from the neighboring town back to my home. No idea why. The ride would’ve earned him at least 15,000 won and despite having a GPS and the address, he kept refusing us. We were NOT happy.

    • paultigger

      The union’s reps statement of the taxi driver being falsely accused is incorrect if simply they don’t stop. He or she shouldn’t be picking up fares on their way to lunch or heading back to the company. Yet you have some who want to try and pick up a couple of extra bucks from passengers who might be heading their way. In such cases, they should be reported for pulling over and rejecting a customer.

  • Jarret Jack

    Kim Seong-jae, deputy director at the Korean Taxi Workers’ Union, showed a mixed reaction on the law revision.

    “We welcome the move, but the law has many loopholes,” he said.

    “People may mistakenly report taxi drivers when they cannot take passengers because they are heading for lunch or going back to the company after their shifts.”

    It’s the taxi drivers who will use this as their loophole to get out of ever being punished. When I called in to complain while sitting in the car of a taxi driver who refused to take me home, the woman on the other end asked to speak to the driver. The driver went off on a rant about foreigners and made up the story about how he was just going home at the end of his shift. Right. He somehow forgot to turn off his light and he slowed down to ask us where we were going. When we hopped in and we gave him our destination that refused. When I spoke to the woman again on the line she simply told me his story, that he was ending his shift and was just trying to go home. There was nothing we could do.

  • Alex Ellsworth

    “People may mistakenly report drivers who are going to dinner or changing shifts.” NOPE. Here’s what you do: dinner or shift change = turn 빈차 light off. Light turned on = must accept any/all passengers to go any/all desired places!!

  • kitkat11055

    I remember 12 a.m. buses shut down and taxis everywhere I waved them down over and over as I walked from bus station to my house 2 hours later still one would not stop for me. I arrived safely home by 2 exhausted after bus home from Busan and boat from Taemado Japan and walking 7 miles there too because taxi and bus there so expensive even compared to Korea…I’m glad, they should not discriminate if they are going to get paid…one taxi driver got so angry at me because I could not say in Korean where I needed to go but the street name and they don’t go by street names there like in USA but they go by city or place in city like a building name (complex) or store SO he actually threw me out of the cab…another one I gave the street name he put on his GPS and drove me courteously so it depends on driver….I hate to see them lose income or be fined but really they should appreciate the foreigner is a paying customer too and be understanding if they don’t know the system there. I learned it but took awhile to learn how it was done and speak enough Korean to say where to go. I was thankful to the kind patient driver and friendly ones but the rude unkind ones far outweighed them sadly…hope this helps but I don’t think it will tradition is big thing there and traditionally many have their own thoughts and feelings on it and do not appreciate the foreigner in korea so much and still may not stop.

  • Taelan Baylor

    I dont like this and I disagree. In the country I’d never get refused a ride. In Seoul it happens all the time and I thought it was because I was a foreigner or because the drivers had bad experiences. Then I noticed korean people getting passed up on too.

    I’ve never really had a bad experience with cab drivers. Despite fearing for years that they would drive a long distance to run up the fare its never really happened. Once or twice they took a route I was pretty sure wasnt quicker, but it was marginally different.

    These drivers have to make money. They’re the captain of the car and I trust their judgement in how they do their job. If they wont take you a short distance because its not profitable then its not profitable. You need to pay more. Yes it is frustrating looking for 20 minutes for a 10 minute cab ride, but you dont have a right to their labor at a certain price just as your boss doesn’t have a right to your labor at 2.1m and a shitty one room when you have a better offer for 2.4m.

    Using government to enforce fairness is a bad idea. It just reinforces more resentment.

  • madeinxyz

    Well, this problem exists everywhere. Not only Korea. As a (I’m South Korean) foreigner, I had bad experiences in Germany, Italy, USA, France, Australia, Singapore. I’m not even lying. I think of it as the global Taxidemie…Well, Italy was a bit different. though, to be fair: The driver dropped me off nearby a place, to which HE had to go and I paid him in full just to realize I was nowhere near my hotel (and trust me: You cannot mispronounce Duomo di Milano.)

  • salambander

    How can we report rejections in Ulsan?

  • paultigger

    I have been in this dilemma and I sympathize with all those who have been rejected by taxi jerks. It was why I was hoping that Uber be accepted in Korea to offer my services on the weekend but I guess I have to wait until the legal wrangling is done.

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