Foreign residents in Korea who have been discontented with Korea’s conventional taxi services have increasingly opted to use Uber, the smartphone car-hailing application.
And those foreigners are fuming at the latest move by the Seoul government to block Uber from operating in the city.
“Uber has solved every problem that foreigners and tourists have with Seoul taxi services. There is no waiting, no negotiating, and no ‘I won’t go there’ with Uber services,” said Sam, a 45-year-old businessman, calling the city government’s ban “slightly inflammatory and prejudicial.”
He added that the city, taxi unions and taxi companies are ignoring consistent problems such as overcharging, and instead trying to shut down Uber.
Others also complained that such continued ill practices of conventional cabs are making foreign customers turn their backs on them.
David Yoon, a school curriculum director who lives in Seoul, said ride refusals “happen all the time,” taxi drivers often go a weird way, and customers end up being overcharged 3,000 won-4,000 won ($2.90-$3.90) more than the usual fare.
The downtown areas, such as Gangnam in southern Seoul, are places where foreign residents say they are most often refused taxi services.
When foreigners do not speak either Korean or English, they become easy targets for rip-offs.
“During the first month here in Korea without being able to speak any English or Korean, a couple of my friends got cheated with a ridiculous amount of money (for taxi rides),” said Thoa Le, an exchange student from the U.S.
“Some even charged them 50,000 won from Hongdae to Ewha Womans University just because they are Vietnamese,” she added.
The last resort foreign residents say they had was to know the shortest route and a normal fare, and make complaints against taxi drivers who have overcharged them.
“Even though the Uber service is more expensive than the taxi ride, I feel more comfortable with the Uber ride than the latter,” said a foreign resident who declined to be named.
By Kim Young-won and Emma Kalka