As you've probably noticed many cabs around the country have "free interpretation" signs on their window, which means the drivers are able to phone an interpreter. As Korea Beat translated last year, many drivers refuse to use this service, though, saying it's too impersonal. You'll notice that I have "BBB," the free over-the-phone interpretation service linked on my sidebar, which is something you might keep handy if you anticipate problems.
I've written about these cabs three times: here, here, and here. It makes more sense to either learn a few words of Korean or insist on using the free interpretation service already in place, rather than being on the look-out for these foreigner-only cabs. Well, if you're Korean is that bad that you can't say the name of your destination, then maybe you deserve to spend more.
And, you do have to wonder about what will qualify as foreign-language proficiency here. I linked to a Korea Times article in February that sounded encouraging
``Some interviewees were so fluent in foreign languages that we had a difficult time understanding what they said,'' said a Seoul government official and interviewer. ``We expect that they, with proficient language skills, will help upgrade taxi services for foreign customers.''
but after taking a quote-unquote English-language tour at Changdeokgung last weekend, and after meeting scores of Korean English teachers over the years, I have reasons to be skeptical. If you live in Korea, take a few seconds to learn how to pronounce where you're going, and don't overpay for something that's presented under the guise of being helpful. I find taxi drivers generally quite friendly and patient with my poor Korean, and are evidentally competent in dealing with some of the cretins that live around here, so hailing a cab shouldn't be an intimidating experience. Rather than further isolating ourselves from our communities, and getting driven around like we're some plump British imperialist touring the colonies, just do your best and deal with the challenges that come with operating in a foreign language and a foreign country.