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Taxi drivers from Area I and Area II protest outside Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, on Thursday.

Taxi drivers from Area I and Area II protest outside Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, on Thursday. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Limited taxi service returned Thursday to U.S. military bases in Area I and Area II as the strike by Arirang Worldcup Tourism Ltd. stretched into its sixth day.

On Area II’s Yongsan Garrison, 18 Arirang taxi cab drivers returned to work, according to Area II Support Activity officials. Most of the taxi union’s 270 drivers remained on strike, according to the union president.

In Area I, military officials made a temporary deal with another South Korean taxi company, Gwang Seung, to allow its drivers to come onto U.S. Forces Korea bases in the Uijeongbu and Dongducheon areas, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Ricardo Soto-Acevedo of Camp Red Cloud.

“We greatly appreciate this,” Soto-Acevedo said Thursday of the agreement with Gwang Seung. “They don’t really have to support us.”

Arirang union members said they were saddened, angered and worried by the news that some taxi service had resumed.

Shim Woo-chang, the union president, said he worried it could signal a new contract with a new company.

Arirang contracts with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to provide the taxi service in Area Is and II. AAFES officials have said that contract is in jeopardy because the service has been suspended.

The drivers are at odds with Arirang management over a requested $105 monthly raise in their basic salary. Each month, most drivers make about $1,259 to $1,363, including overtime, bonuses and receipt-sharing, but excluding tips.

An overnight negotiation session Tuesday between the union and Arirang management failed, both sides have said.

Also Thursday, about 150 union drivers gathered near Yongsan Garrison outside the War Memorial, chanting union slogans, banging on gongs and giving speeches. After 90 minutes, they marched to the Arirang offices, near the Han River.

There was no reaction from Arirang officials. A small group of police followed the protesters to help keep traffic from the group, which spilled into the street.

At the War Memorial, Bae Sam-jin, a 15-year veteran with Arirang, said he was angry that a handful of his co-workers went back to driving.

Shim said five union drivers returned to work. He said he would seek to have them fired from their jobs. “Those who went back to work are disgracing our names and betraying our trusts,” he said Thursday.

Shim also said he had no idea how long the strike might last and asked for understanding from USFK personnel. “We are the one who really want to go back to work to serve our USFK people as soon as possible,” Shim said.

T.D. Flack and Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

Getting around in Area IGwang Seung Transportation Co., a South Korean taxi company, has an agreement with Area I military officials to take U.S. Forces Korea personnel on and off bases, to Incheon International Airport and to Yongsan Garrison in Seoul.

All Gwang Seung taxi rides must start on Camp Red Cloud, Camp Stanley or in Uijeongbu, the city where the company is based.

Cabs will wait on base to give rides, though demand may exceed supply.

Thirteen phone numbers can be used to summon a cab, as well as directions written with Korean pronunciation to common destinations.

Cab drivers cannot be dispatched for passengers at Camp Casey in Dongducheon, which is outside their normal starting area.

However, a Gwang Seung cab in Uijoengbu will take passengers to Casey.

Drivers can accept dollars at a pre-arranged rate of 950 won to $1.

If there is a dispute about the rate, military officials ask passengers to refrain from arguing with drivers but to report the situation to a commander immediately.

To use a Gwang Seung cab, call:

010-9948-6105

010-9948-6115

010-9948-6117

010-9948-6129

010-9948-6133

010-9948-6140

010-9948-6144

010-9948-6104

010-9948-6113

010-9948-6126

010-9948-6131

010-9948-6136

010-9948-6142

Source: Camp Red Cloud and Area I

Getting around in Area IIAs of Thursday, 18 Arirang Worldcup Taxi Ltd. drivers returned to work.

Area II officials also increased on-base bus service from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to ensure a 15-minute wait between buses instead of 30 minutes.

The shuttle bus between Yongsan Garrison and Incheon International Airport is not affected by the strike.

Source: Area II Support Activity


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