The Seoul Metropolitan Government has announced the “2013 Measures to Eradicate Rip-offs.” It has declared 2013 as its first year of rooting out swindling of foreign tourists. It is cracking down on rip-offs in five particular areas: taxis, call vans, shopping, restaurants, and stalls. During the period April 22 (Monday) ~ May 7 (Tuesday), the city administration is bolstering its campaign against the irregularities since Chinese and Japanese tourists pour into Seoul during the period to enjoy the Chinese Labor Day Week and Japan’s Golden Week, respectively.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is seeking to eradicate rip-offs in the city through the following specific actions: ▲ Enforcing strictly the law against habitual, malicious rip-offs by taxi and call van drivers; ▲ Forcing shops, restaurants, and stalls to implement a fixed price system; ▲ Alerting foreigners to the danger of rip-offs and strengthening on-site monitoring; ▲ Organizing private-public partnership initiatives to eliminate wrongful practices through citizens’ active participation in the campaign.
1. On-Site Discovery of Habitual, Malicious Rip-offs by Taxi and Call Van Drivers
In collaboration with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, the municipal government has been consolidating both on-site crackdown efforts and larger systematic investigation efforts since Monday, April 22, 2013 to crack down on irregularities committed by taxi and call van drivers, ranging from not using meters to overcharging.
Specifically, the following acts by taxi or call van drivers are subject to strict law enforcement: ▲ Rejecting local passengers in favor of foreign ones; ▲ Soliciting passengers and negotiating fares; ▲ Not using meters or overcharging foreigners; ▲ Manipulation of meters by call van drivers.
Currently, an irregularity by a call van is punishable by a 60-day license suspension or 600,000 won in penalty. The municipal government is promoting harsher punishment, i.e., revocation of business license for one violation of regulations.
2. Law Enforcement for the Implementation of Fixed Prices at Shops and Restaurants
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is enforcing fixed prices at shops, restaurants, and stalls in major tourist zones in particular to prevent tourists from being ripped off there.
As for shops, the city government is beefing up its oversight not just for traditional shops required to implement a fixed price system (a store of more than 17 m2 engaged in clothing, souvenir, and cosmetics business) but also for shops in recently designated areas such as Namdaemum and Gwangjang Markets.
As for restaurants including general and karaoke bars located within the perimeters of tourist spots, the municipal government is investigating whether they keep clearly priced menus or wall postings to eradicate risks of price gouging. Likewise, it is actively encouraging restaurants to prepare menus in Korean and foreign languages side by side to minimize foreign visitors’ inconvenience.
With regard to stalls, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is mustering support from district offices and organizations of street vendors. It encourages stall keepers to post fixed prices voluntarily. Vendors who fail to do so are eventually slapped with penalty or administrative measures by the city government to force them to comply with regulations.
3. Taxi Ride App, Increased Tour Helpers, Enhanced Prevention Efforts and On-Site Monitoring
For taxis and call vans, which are most likely to give in to rip-off temptations, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is working hard to eliminate any potential manipulation by bad drivers. Part of such efforts is the provision of fare information in multiple languages. The municipal administration is set to publish an additional 150,000 copies of the publication titled “Using Taxis in Seoul Correctly” for foreign visitors to Seoul.
Starting April 26, 2013, the city will offer the services of a private app (Taximeter ) linked to Seoul Mobile Tourism App (i Tour Seoul) in a bid to prevent taxi drivers from overcharging their passengers.
Launched in 2009, the Seoul Mobile Tourism App offers free travel information contents such as accommodation, restaurants, transportation, tour courses, and shopping. In March 2013, the city began offering an interpretation and translation app to eliminate the language barrier that a foreign tourist might encounter in Seoul.
The “Taximeter ” app lets a taxi passenger check the taxi fare incurred in real time at any point of his/her taxi ride. The service is available in three languages: Korean, English, and Japanese.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is actively publicizing how and where to report tourism grievances both online and offline including call centers 1330 or 120+9, Visit Seoul and Seoul Metropolitan Government websites, tourist information centers, and hotels.
It plans to increase the number of “Roaming Seoul Tourism Helpers” assigned to the most crowded tourist spots in Seoul such as Myeong-dong and Namdaemun from 26 to 41. Furthermore, it will mobilize 60 volunteers’ services to minimize foreign tourists’ inconvenience in the city.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is implementing the “Mystery Chauffeur System” at famous tourist spots in the city to catch violators of tourism regulations on the spot. The system uses fake foreign tourists. Irregularities will be reported to the relevant oversight agencies immediately, and aggressive law enforcement efforts will be made for the particular area(s).
4. Citizens’ Initiatives in Building Safe Tourism Areas
In an effort to make fundamental improvements in the city’s overall services for foreign tourists, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has launched the “Building Safe Tourism Areas” campaign for Special Tourist Zones under the initiative of the private sector. Organizations such as the Visit Korea Committee, Seoul Tourism Association, Special Tourist Zone Association, and Regional Merchants Organizations are also joining in the effort.
The “Building Safe Tourism Areas” campaign is being carried out in Myeong-dong and Namdaemun which are traditional special tourist areas since they have been selected as safe tourism areas as well. The residents of the areas are taking active roles in the efforts to eradicate cases of overcharging or soliciting while promoting kindness and hospitality among all those engaged in the tourism business.