CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — The city of Dongducheon and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service struck a deal to restore full taxi service to the Camp Casey enclave after more than three months of limited service, both sides said Wednesday.
A new company is in negotiations with the city and AAFES to provide about 50 taxis licensed to serve only the military community, officials said.
City officials expect service to begin by September, though AAFES officials couldn’t give an exact time frame because of the negotiations.
In the meantime, Kumkang and Yonhap taxi companies have more than doubled the number of taxis and are running up to 70 on Camp Casey and its nearby bases.
Officials expect they’ll continue providing taxis in the future.
"[The city] agreed to AAFES’ terms," said Area I AAFES general manager Ken Limtiaco. "It becomes a win-win situation for everyone. We get up to three taxi companies and 100 cabs, and it gives the drivers an opportunity to have jobs."
Dongducheon Mayor Oh Se-chang, who is running for re-election, had received complaints from drivers who used to work for Worldcup Arirang, the base-only taxi provider that was fired for breach of contract in April after workers went on strike for the second time in two years.
The mayor’s office also heard last week from Dongducheon marketplace merchants, who were upset that soldiers were no longer taking taxis to their area.
The city released a statement praising the "persistent negotiations" and the resulting agreement.
In an interview Wednesday, Song Myung-seok of the city’s traffic and administrative division said the new base-only provider was the city’s decision.
However, the new company wouldn’t be run by Worldcup Arirang’s old management, Limtiaco said.
Dongducheon soldiers say more taxis can’t come fast enough. Few troops in the area are allowed to own cars.
Despite the announced increase in Kumkang and Yonhap taxis, some soldiers say it’s still a long wait for a taxi, though many of the same soldiers said they’ve been away for field training recently.
"I don’t think it’s gotten any better in the past week," said Pfc. Robert Green of 1st Battalion, 15th Artillery Regiment’s headquarters battery.
Green said he’s waited hours for a taxi on Camp Hovey, which is about four miles from the Camp Casey commissary and post exchange.
Although buses run throughout the enclave, it’s a big problem to load a lot of grocery bags onto a bus, said Staff Sgt. Joseph Paul of 1st Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment’s headquarters company.
"I’ve come out of the commissary and waited in line in excess of an hour and 30 minutes to get back with meat, milk and frozen products," Paul said.
"By the time I get back, most of it is in the melting process."
Stars and Stripes reporter Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.