Taxis and the KTX - Seoul local transportation - 35

Seoul local transportation: Taxis and the KTX

Taxis: Seoul taxis are cheap, plentiful and easy to find. Wonderful. Wherever you are, you can usually find a taxi. In addition, the fares are more than half the price of other big cities such as Rome, Paris or London. Now I am back in England, I greatly miss the Seoul taxi KTX trainsservice.

KTX – (The new high speed railway link): I find two things unbelievable about the KTX. Firstly, the technology and speed of the KTX itself and secondly, the fact that Korean people seem to have failed to embrace what surely is a great feat for Korea. In April 2004, Korea became one of only five countries (joining France, Japan, Spain and Germany) in having super high-speed trains. The KTX, which can run at 300km per hour, is sure to add to a country that is in need of an improved infrastructure outside of Seoul. The introduction of the KTX opens up the country, with the KTX slicing through the countryside and joining Seoul to Busan and Mokpo and dozens of places in between. Cutting almost 1/3rd off of the time between Seoul and Busan, commuting into Seoul from more distant towns and cities becomes more viable.

Living in Seoul at the time of the introduction of the KTX, I was excited and expected Koreans also to be excited. I brought the subject of the KTX up many times in the classes, asking, “What do you think of the KTX”? The replies were mostly negative and non-committal. Safety was often a reason stated as a concern. The truth is that even with the TGV in France, there were many problems to iron out in the first year and such problems are not uncommon in such a huge project as this. Several students stated to me that they were too scared to use the train and knowing what they knew about Korean safety, they did not think it would be safe, particularly with the speed at which the KTX runs.

The negativity in many ways reflects the pessimism that sometimes exists in Korea, created possibly from the affects of events such as the IMF crisis in 1997 and also from the many years of domination by the Japanese. Such events, especially the IMF crisis, left some Koreans always in fear of the worse and it is understandable. In 2004 the economy have been stuttering and with 8% unemployment for university graduates, many Koreans worry about the future and this fear sometimes filters across to other issues; even issues which seem to be very positive for Korea. Personally I believe Korea has a very strong future, as will be discussed in the economy chapter later in this book.

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