Driver-for-hire service in Korea

Written by on September 26, 2013 in Lifestyle
Driver-for-hire sign

Few countries take to alcohol with as much gusto as the Koreans who are notorious for their drinking culture. Some drink to forget their woes, but drinking, be it soju or beer, is really a social lubricant. Office workers drink to reaffirm their solidarity and to break down hierarchy. Friends drink to camaraderie and kinship.

Just as drinking (sometimes excessively) is not uncommon in Korea, so is drink driving. (Editor’s note: driving while intoxicated is a serious offense in Korea is punishable by law, ranging from suspension of the driver’s license to imprisonment and fine.) And part of this can be attributed to the associated dangers of drink driving on television dramas. How many times have you seen characters in drama serials have a tipple at a bar, and safely driving home?

Of course, the Korean authorities are also doing their part in actively clamping down the drink driving culture by setting up frequent road blocks at popular drinking spots. But, ultimately, it boils down to being responsible to oneself and your family: if you drink, don’t drive (public transport is just as great in Korea).

For those who drove and don’t want to spend a night at the Jimjibang (Korean bath house), fortunately, there is driver-for-hire service. Note that most bars don’t allow you to park overnight at their premises.

Driver-for-hire (대리운전) is a service where you can pay for a driver to drive your car (and your drunken self in it) home. This isn’t limited to just people who are drunk, but also those who are too tired to drive.

At most drinking spots, you’ll find inflatable advertisements (picture above) promoting such a service. A typical conversation with the operator on the other line begins with asking for your location and where you are heading to before a price is quoted. Alternatively, if you’re low on cash, you can also ask how much a certain amount of money will take you.

For ladies, you could request for a female driver, although I would personally think it’s safer to have a trusted male colleague accompany you on the ride.

The cost of using the driver-for-hire service, from point A to point B within the Seoul city, typically average at 10,000 won. From Yeouido to Jamsil, for example, could cost anywhere between 10,000 won to 15,000 won. It is possible to negotiate, but I’m assuming that one’s ability to haggle is inversely related to the amount of alcohol consumed.

Once agreed, you should ask how long it takes for the driver to arrive. Usually if you are in a central area, the wait is between 10 and 15 minutes. So it may be a good idea to call for the service before you leave the bar.

While most people would simply pick up their phone to arrange for the service, the more technologically savvy (or less drunk) lot could also use the M2M Android smartphone application.

There are several benefits to this, but perhaps the most useful is that you can pinpoint your location with the smartphone’s GPS instead of trying to explain where you are in a drunken stupor.

There is a similar app for the designated drivers and the app could help locate one which is near your location, reducing the waiting time for them to arrive at your location.

So, if you drink, don’t drive. If you drive, don’t drink. If you must drink, use the driver-for-hire service.

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About the Author

Damian Koh

Singaporean living in Bundang, South Korea, permanently wired to social media and big data by day (and some nights). When not plugged in, he enjoys wakeboarding, snowboarding scuba diving and bumming at the beach. Loves chicken, beer and single malt whisky.