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Cab Drivers Committing Passenger Discrimination to Survive

Cab Drivers Committing Passenger Discrimination to Survive

Posted December. 27, 2008 03:08,   


“Haengdang district! Haengdang district!”

Hong Eun-seok, a 34-year-old bank teller, spent 50 minutes trying to hail a taxi at 1:20 a.m. Christmas Day in the freezing cold after a year-end party in downtown Seoul.

Dozens of empty taxis passed by him, but refused to take him. A few taxis finally pulled up near him but drove on after hearing his destination.

Living a 20-minute drive away from downtown Seoul, Hong said, “Taxi drivers say they’re having hard time due to lack of passengers, but I don’t understand why it’s so hard to get a taxi here.”

With a rush of year-end meetings and parties at this time of the year, people in Seoul’s commercial districts such as Gwanghwamun, Gangnam, and Yeouido are struggling to get a taxi late at night.

Many taxi drivers say they have no passengers by day, so they must pick up long-distance passengers at night to compensate for their day losses.

This often forces passengers going shorter distances to pay double or triple the standard fare or allow taxis to take on other passengers.

Despite such complaints, taxi drivers say they cannot help it since they have to earn money to pay their taxi companies.

According to the national taxi union, the number of taxis in Seoul increased 10 percent over the past decade, but that of passengers fell 20 percent over the same period.

The economic crisis and the price volatility of liquefied petroleum gas are making taxi drivers’ lives harder, as most struggle to maintain operating expenses let alone a living.

The average taxi driver usually earns a monthly base salary of 800,000 won (616 U.S. dollars), along with earnings from fares. If he or she fails to make enough money to pay the parent cab companies, the driver must compensate out of his or her own pocket.

Drivers usually alternate between full 12-hour day and night shifts for two weeks. Since they seldom make ends meet during the day due to lack of passengers, they drive at night to compensate their losses and deficits.

A taxi driver with 15 years of experience said, “When I work the day shift, I lose 10,000 to 20,000 won (7.69 to 15.39 dollars) a day. On the night shift, I barely earn 40,000 to 50,000 won (30.79 to 38.49 dollars) by taking passengers going long distances or have them share rides.”

“Working 26 days in a month earns me 1.1 million to 1.3 million won (846.80 to 1,000.69 dollars), but it is difficult to make 800,000 won (616 dollars) a month if I don’t take advantage of the peak time of midnight to 2 a.m.”