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04/23/2018 Special > Opinion


Efforts to Improve Taxi Services

The policy under question


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Uniforms are often used as a method to increase a sense of belonging in a more orderly environment. Since the end of 2017, corporation-owned taxi drivers of Seoul have started to wear uniforms, based on the city council's passing of a new framework ordinance on Seoul taxis. The policy is making a U-turn, as there had been regulations regarding the dress code of taxi drivers previously, which was aborted in 2011. Now, the reintroduction of the policy has led to some controversies on the surface.

Why a U-turn?

Since 2011, taxi drivers have been enjoying freedom in dressing, due to the halt of the regulation by the government. However, granting taxi drivers the freedom to dress with their own choice led to an increase in civil complaints related to this issue. The complaints were mainly due to the fact that taxi drivers had abused their privilege of a free dress code and wore clothes that actually induced displeasure for many taxi users. These included sleeveless undershirts, slippers and even hats that made it hard to confirm the identity of the driver. This was unacceptable considering that it is mandatory for all taxi drivers to provide an assured identity to their customers, by which they provide a safer environment for this particular form of transportation.

The Taxi Union and Management has also maintained the need of a unified dress code. Taxis have often been called upon to answer for their inhospitable services. In order to overcome such criticism, the Taxi Union and Management has come to the conclusion that the implementation of a unified dress code can bring improvements in customer services and provide trust to customers.
The problematic attire of taxi drivers that has caused displeasure
(Photo courtesy of News ZUM)
The new uniform provided to Seoul taxi drivers for winter (left) and summer (right)
(Photo courtesy of Nocut News)

Questioning the effect

It has been agreed that Seoul city alone bore the entire cost of uniform supplies in the first year of implementation, and the taxi business corporates cover the following entailed costs in the future. Under this agreement, the city spent 1.6 billion Korean won in providing uniforms to around 35,000 taxi drivers in the first year of the policy's implementation.

However, with around half a year passing after the initial execution of this new policy of providing the taxi drivers a uniform, there have been questions rising from among both the drivers and customers. In fact, many taxi users are still unaware of this half-year-old policy, perhaps due to the fact that many taxi drivers do not wear the dress shirt uniform, disregarding the new policy.

Furthermore, taking into consideration that the main intention of this uniform policy was to renovate taxi-related service issues, the fact that many users still remain unware of any improvements indicates that the change and its effect have been mediocre. If there are significant enhancements in the provided services, taxi users would have noticed a change in the taxi business environment as the direct beneficiary. In either case, such unawareness by taxi users shows that this novel dress code is far from meeting its original intentions.
A Seoul taxi driver wearing the newly provided uniform
(Photo courtesy of Wikitree)

An attempt in vain

The taxi-drivers also have something to say about the newly applied uniform policy. Most taxi drivers are behind the wheel for more than ten hours on a daily basis. In this sense, a dress shirt may be highly inconvenient for those drivers. In addition, taxi drivers maintain that simply wearing a neat dress shirt does not directly lead to a desire to provide hospitable services to their users. Thus, although a neat dress code may seem more polite to taxi users, it is not directly related to the actual services that are provided to them.               

In light of these details, it is doubtful whether the standardized dress code policy for taxi drivers has produced successful outcomes. The original intentions of enhancing customer services based on a neat appearance have turned out to be moderate. Both the users and drivers have seen trivial benefits after the implementation of this uniform policy. Although, a six month period may be too short to judge the policy’s effectiveness, without considerable improvements, it seems hard to overturn such negative prospects. Rather than simply preparing a uniform, finding the more fundamental cause behind the users’ complaints and providing a fitter measure seems necessary. 

Choi Seo-yong
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