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YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Rising fuel costs and falling dollar values will mean a 50-cent increase — a 28 percent jump — beginning May 1 for the starting fare of most on-base taxis in South Korea, according to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.

The starting fee will increase to $2.30 from $1.80 for taxis in Area I, Area II and Area III, according to a statement from AAFES. The contracted taxi companies, Worldcup Arirang Tourism Co. and HaeKang Taxi Co., also will begin charging 20 percent extra for rides between midnight and 4 a.m.

“No one likes price increases but market forces dictated that AAFES had to adjust rates to ensure our troops in Korea and their families receive dependable and safe transportation support,” AAFES Pacific Commander Col. Michelle Gardner-Ince was quoted in a written statement as saying. “Considering AAFES taxi fares are received in U.S. dollars, the combination of a strong won and increased fuel costs made the increase unavoidable.”

On Tuesday, a dollar would buy 945 won, according to the Federal Reserve System Board of Governors. Put another way, a 1,000-won note was worth 95 cents.

The fare adjustment will not change the incremental charges based on distance and time, according to AAFES. That will remain at 30 cents per unit. The change also will not affect on-base taxi prices in Area IV, according to AAFES spokesman Air Force Master Sgt. Donovan Potter.

The new late-night charge mirrors a practice by South Korean taxis, according to AAFES.

In Seoul, the basic starting taxi fare last increased in June to 1,900 won, or about $2, according to Oh Seo-gwang, who works in the transportation division for Seoul city government.

Not every taxi driver welcomed the increase because some were afraid higher rates would cost them customers, Oh said. To appease those concerns, Seoul city officials promised not to raise the rates for two years, he said.

AAFES taxis buy their gas at on-base prices. On Wednesday a gallon cost $2.43.

In Seoul, unleaded gasoline costs about $6 a gallon. But South Korean taxis use liquefied petroleum gas, which cost about $2.93 a gallon, according to one gas station in Seoul on Wednesday.

AAFES contracts with Arirang and HaeKang expire in 2008, according to Potter. AAFES is limited to negotiating rates with these two companies because the South Korean Ministry of Transportation issued exclusive taxi licenses to those companies to transport people on and off U.S. military bases.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this story.

What’s a dollar worth?The Army and Air Force Exchange Service says the dollar’s falling value against the South Korean won is one of the main reasons the starting fee for on-base taxi prices will increase by 28 percent, from $1.80 to $2.30. On Tuesday, the dollar was worth 95 cents against a 1,000-won note.

Here’s a look at the American dollar’s declining value against the won since the last time taxi prices went up. The dollar values are based on the first working day of each month.

A 1,000-won note equaled:

97 cents April 2006

97 cents March 2006

96 cents February 2006

$1.00 January 2006

$1.04 December 2005

$1.04 November 2005

$1.04 October 2005

$1.03 September 2005

$1.02 August 2005

$1.03 July 2005

$1.01 June 2005

$1 May 2005

$1.07 April 2005

$1 March 2005

Source: The Federal Reserve System Board of Governors


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