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Drunken Taxi Drivers Menacing Korea’s Roads

Posted September. 14, 2005 07:46,   


On July 17 around 4:20 p.m., taxi driver “Y” (37) was driving drunk with a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.239 percent when he crashed into a van in a narrow passageway in Yeongseon-dong, Yeongdo-gu, Busan.

At around 7:00 p.m. on July 25, Taxi Driver “J” was involved in an accident that killed one of his passengers on Road 498 in Gaehwa-dong, Gangseo-gu. Seoul. It was later revealed that he had driven his taxi with a blood alcohol level of 0.168 percent.

These so-called “drunk taxis” are roaming the streets. Data collected from our paper reveals that around 100 private taxi drivers have their licenses revoked due to drunk driving every year.

According to a recent file obtained by Dong-A Ilbo from the Ministry of Construction and Transportation titled “Causes for Private Taxi License Revocations in the Past 10 Years,” 1,491 drivers had their licenses revoked due to drunk driving and/or various crimes for 10 years from 1995 until last year. It marks the first time the government has revealed taxi license revocation data.

Of the 1,491 drivers who had their licenses revoked, 959, or 64.3 percent, had their work licenses revoked due to “drunk driving during service in a private taxi.” Data concerning the district of Seoul was not collected until 2000.

Various crimes, such as violations of the Act on the Protection of Youth from Sexual Exploitation and of the Act on the Control of Narcotics, accounted for the license revocations of 387 drivers (26.0 percent), while 137 (9.1 percent) had their licenses revoked for reasons such as driving drunk in privately owned vehicles.

The number of taxi drivers caught while drunk driving in private taxis was highest in 2001 with 162, but declined by half in 2002 to 85. The tide has turned back again, however, with 111 cases in 2003 and 109 last year.

Focusing on each province, Daegu had the highest toll with 145 revocations, followed by 125 in Gyeonggi, 100 in Gyeongnam, and 82 in Busan. Seoul also had a high number, 78 revocations, in the four years since 2001.

Based on the statistics for the past three years (2002-2004), Seoul and Gyeonggi had the most, each with 45 revocations, followed by Daegu (36) and Gyeongnam (32). Ulsan had none.

Park Yong-hun, a representative of the Coalition for Transportation Culture, pointed out, “In reality, there will be more ‘dead-drunk taxis’ than the stats shown. Taxi drivers should be obliged to submit to regular drug tests, while preventive education and the management of vehicle histories are also needed.”

Taxi drivers are accusing the current Passenger Transport Business Act as providing the basis for double jeopardy, in that it stipulates the revocation of not only one’s driving license, but also one’s work license if a taxi driver is caught driving drunk in a vehicle that is not a taxi.

This year, they have filed a written petition to the National Assembly for the pardoning of private taxi drivers with revoked licenses, and also made a petition to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea.

Ko Gi-nam, chairman of the Committee for the Restoration of National Private Taxi Business Rights, said, “Losing one’s private taxi business rights, worth approximately 50 million won, when caught drunk driving on a day off in a taxi or in a private vehicle, is a case of double jeopardy,” while asserting the need for a revision of the related provisions.