One of my first experiences in Korea was the taxi ride from Busan Station to the apartment which would become our home for the next few months. I quickly learned that taxi rides in Korea were potentially dangerous experiences, because while aggressive driving is commonplace, taxi drivers represent the inevitable end result of what you would expect of professional drivers in this environment. But it took me a lot longer to learn that taxis can have a much darker side.
This is a country where people leave their bags at their tables in a restaurant to go to the toilet. I'm sure theft occurs but it can't be as endemic as in my country because if it was you'd keep your eyes, if not your hands, on your possessions at all times. Korean Mother has a habit of losing her phone, but she always gets it back, except when she loses it in a taxi. The phone is called, but no-one answers. A few days ago though, she was quite lucky to retrieve her phone from such a situation - but the driver, who turned out to live about a mile away, insisted on being paid before handing it over. The phone is cheap and it's possible that the value of the ransom was more than it was worth - but of course there are all the contact numbers and miscellaneous pieces of data on it that she wants to have, so she took the phone and angrily threw the money into the car. Not handing money over properly is the height of calculated rudeness here.
Then I discovered something quite disconcerting. It seems that a taxi can be hired in cash for the day by just about anyone, so it's a favoured way for criminals or other people outside the system to earn a living. This shouldn't infer that the vast majority of Korean taxi drivers have anything to hide - I'm sure they don't, although the Chosun Ilbo suggests there are 5,000 of these so-called 'contract cabs' in Seoul. The article also highlights the clear dangers this poses to women, mentioning the murder this year of two women by illegal taxi drivers.
Korean tags: 택시, 범죄, 여자