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New South Korea law would clamp down on dishonest cabbies

SEOUL — Seoul is expected to pass an ordinance that would allow the capital to offer a reward of 500,000 won — about $463 — to people who report taxi drivers overcharging foreign passengers, though it may not be easy to collect.

Kim Sujeong, an official with the city’s taxi logistics department, said the proposed legislation was prompted by media reports about expats who believe they were swindled.

“The city believes this kind of thing is hurting our country’s image,” she said. If the ordinance is passed late this month as expected, it likely would be several months before it takes effect, she said.

Kim said the city does not keep records of how many foreigners have complained about unfair taxi charges.

Many servicemembers stationed in South Korea are not authorized to have personal cars and rely on taxis and public transit.

After the ordinance is passed, customers who believe they have been swindled would have to fill out a form. The city would investigate, a process Kim said could take several months.

However, the new ordinance may not have teeth. A customer is unlikely to receive a reward without evidence of wrongdoing, such as receipts and photos of the taxi number or interior. If the driver disputes the claim, the case will go to court, and Kim said that could take about a year.

She said the city has already begun receiving complaints from foreigners who mistakenly believe the law has taken effect.

If someone believes they have been cheated by their taxi driver, Kim said they should call the city’s helpline at 120, then press 9 to reach an English speaker.

According to South Korea’s Yonhap News, the city has 390 “international taxis” for foreigners that are equipped with English and Japanese translation services and drivers who speak the languages well.

South Korea has undertaken a nationwide effort to improve its image, including overseas campaigns to promote the country’s food and culture.

rowlanda@pstripes.osd.mil

chang.yookyong@pstripes.osd.mil

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