The Kimchi-ite: Seoul Offers Rewards To Report Taxi Drivers Who Rip Off Tourists

Last week, the Seoul city government announced a plan to offer up to a 500,000-won (USD $456) reward for anyone who has information on taxi drivers that rip off foreign tourists.

While charging more than the standard metered fare is against South Korean law, sometimes taxis can forget this, in additional to other rules. Red lights get run, taxis find themselves going the wrong direction on the road to save time and meters are accidentally not turned on and the final prices are made up on the spot, slightly inflated.

It isn’t uncommon to find taxi drivers walking around tourist hot spots late at night, such as near Seoul Station or in the foreign district of Itaewon, hounding tourists and locals alike for their business. Many ask tourists where they want to go and offer a price upfront, off the meter. This upfront price is almost always more expensive than what the actual metered rate would have been. If you try to barter with them, or insist they just use the meter, they will often retort back that it is late and you are unlikely to find any other taxis (often said while they are standing directly in front of a dozen other taxis). They take advantage of the fact that many tourists don’t know average fare for their destination and are willing to accept whatever a cab driver tells them.There have been a number of times when I was coming home long after the subway stopped running and was confronted with these cabbie solicitors. The first time I encountered this situation, I naively took one up on his offer. After my next weekend adventure out on the town, I decided to flag down my own cab from that same spot. My metered fare ending up being less than half the price of that previous, un-metered trip. Ever since then, I mostly ignore the solicitors, sometimes asking them for a cheaper fare than the average, but they always turn me down.

It’s good to hear that the city is trying to curb this lax attitude towards the law. It’s a little concerning that this reward system may only apply to foreign tourists that are ripped off, but hopefully it will benefit tourists and locals alike in the future. It will without a doubt give me one less headache on my journey home from a late night out. Hopefully this new measure is enforced and the hotline to report overcharging is published in every Seoul guidebook.

You can report these fraudulent taxi drivers by calling Seoul Information’s “Dasan 120″ hotline. Just dial 120 from any phone in Seoul and report it to the multi-lingual staff.

Be sure to check out more Korean bits on Korean culture from “The Kimchi-ite” here.

[Photo Credit: Jonathan Kramer]

The Kimchi-ite: A 1000-Year-Old Temple In The Middle Of Seoul

Exiting Sadang Station in Seoul, you can immediately tell it is one of the busiest stations in South Korea; throngs of people are everywhere, pushing and shoving their way in and out. Outside the station are dozens of alleys with neon lights going up four stories, advertising barbecue restaurants, bars and karaoke rooms. Lines crisscross the sidewalk for buses that will take people home to the suburbs. It’s near unimaginable that not far behind the station, up an unassuming hill, is a tranquil Buddhist temple.

This colorful door panel is one of many dragon pieces on the temple doors.
Gwaneum Temple (관음사) was established shortly before 900 A.D. by the Jongye Order in order to harness the power of the mountain’s feng shui. It sits halfway up a mountain, amongst trees, streams and hiking paths. The only reason I even knew it existed is because a friend of mine found it accidentally when he was lost. While the temple was established well over 1,000 years ago, most of the buildings on the site were built in the 1970s, with a few dating to the 1920s.

The interior of the temple where respects are paid and people meditate.

A new statue sits atop a pedestal as a place for self-relection.

These ornate, carved flowers add amazing colors to the temple doors.

The colors used in the art and architecture of Korean temples are always striking, and separates them from temples in other parts of Asia. Almost exclusively, four colors are used: teal, blue, orange and red. The main doors are guarded by large, carved, wooden dragons – a theme here that would continue throughout the grounds.

Dragons are a continuous theme throughout the temple grounds, as seen in this artwork on a temple wall.

Carved dragon heads protect the temple entrance.

A view from the top with Seoul Tower in the distance.

After spending an hour slowly exploring the temple grounds, I turned to walk back to the station when I was presented with this magnificent view of the city. There are certainly many places to check out the Seoul cityscape from above, but this one was unexpected and without the crowds that too commonly accompany Korean attractions, making this perspective one of my favorites.

Be sure to check out all the other Kimchi-ite posts here.

[Photos by Jonathan Kramer]