AAFES, Dongducheon seeking compromise on Casey taxi service
Stars and Stripes June 20, 2007
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — Dongducheon political leaders and Area I officials made progress Wednesday toward taxi service for the Camp Casey enclave, but conflict remains, officials said Wednesday.
Army and Air Force Exchange Service officials still want Kumkang Taxi Co., whose on-post service began June 10, but whose drivers were recalled the same day by Dongducheon Mayor Oh Se-chang.
But the city needs more time to talk with Worldcup Arirang Taxi Co.’s labor union and other taxi companies before it moves forward, said Song Myung-seok, of Dongducheon’s traffic and administrative division.
AAFES dropped Worldcup Arirang last month as its primary service provider after the company could not resolve a strike that began April 18.
The strike, the second since 2006, crippled transportation for Camp Casey-area soldiers — nearly all of whom are not allowed to own vehicles in South Korea.
AAFES managers said they could hire back some of the roughly 130 city residents who drove for Arirang if they work for a different taxi company, according to city officials.
That pleased the mayor, but city officials still prefer that AAFES rehire Worldcup Arirang.
"We think they got fed up with using Arirang taxi and being stuck in the continuous conflicts occurring between the managers and the taxi drivers," Song said. "They want contracts with normal taxi companies, with no labor union strikes. We understand this."
However, Song said the city is concerned that using other companies would deplete the supply of taxis available to Dongducheon residents. And there would be too many taxis when the Army moves its soldiers stationed in and north of Seoul to Camp Humphreys in 2012, as envisioned by the current U.S. Forces Korea realignment plan.
"Drivers may lose their jobs then, too," Song said. "It is very worrisome to us."
To limit the economic effect, the city wants the Camp Casey enclave to have one dedicated taxi company, should the Humphreys move happen on time. It has been delayed several times since 2002.
Last week, Area I AAFES general manager Ken Limtiaco said AAFES wanted multiple taxi companies to compete in a bid to improve customer service and taxi availability.
Competition also would prevent any one company from having too much power over the area’s transportation, he said.
Limtiaco said he couldn’t discuss details of the latest meeting Wednesday because he had not yet briefed the command, but he confirmed the meeting took place and that AAFES reiterated its desire for competition.
While negotiations continue, about 30 taxis from secondary provider Yonhap Taxi are serving the Camp Casey area.