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Seoul to crack down on taxis that refuse passengers

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said Monday it would clamp down on illegal business practices of taxi drivers for the rest of the month.

Working with Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the city government deployed 120 officials, 277 police officers and four patrol cars equipped with surveillance cameras to prevent taxi drivers from turning down certain passengers in violation of regulations.

Taxis are required to accept customers regardless of their destination, but the practice of taxi drivers handpicking passengers or speeding away from them for various reasons is rampant in Seoul and elsewhere.

Seoul City officials will patrol the 24 busiest districts in Seoul including Jongno-gu, Guro-gu and Gangnam-gu until Dec. 31.

Officials will impose a fine of 200,000 won ($180) on taxi drivers who refuse passengers. The city also plans to clamp down weekly on taxis from other areas such as Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, which are barred from transporting customers within Seoul.

Seoul has extended buses’ operating hours and increased the number of taxis that operate exclusively at night to prepare for the increased traffic and the shortage of taxis during the holiday season.

Many companies hold year-end parties that extend well beyond midnight, which allows taxi drivers to cherry-pick their customers to earn the highest profit per ride. Drivers are often known to coerce passengers to pay double or triple the amount shown on the meter.

According to a recent survey commissioned by Seoul City, 28 percent of Seoul citizens said their primary complaint about taxis is the drivers’ refusal to take passengers. It was ranked considerably higher than “rude drivers” (17.6 percent) or “violent driving” (8.7 percent), which ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is set to implement a three-strike system on taxi drivers who refuse passengers from next year. Taxi drivers caught refusing a passenger three times will be slapped with a fine of 600,000 won and revoked of their taxi permit.

By Yoon Min-sik (