Sunday, March 01, 2009

Welcome to Pohang?

I was checking out Pohang City Council's website for a map of the area today and stumbled across a seemingly innocuous "Traveler's Story" on the site (see below). If the City Council members don't understand English well enough to realize that this wasn't, in fact, an actual welcome letter, I think we've got our work cut out for us with the high school population.

Welcome to Pohang (I guess)

Today I took a cab that someone else had called for. The light on the roof was on, so I assumed it was available. The driver spoke only Korean (naturally) and kept asking me things, but as a non-Korean speaking American, I couldn't understand. He kept talking to the dispatcher on the radio, but I didn't know what they were saying. I can only assume he was asking if I had called for the cab, but I really had no idea. I was just trying to get to church and saw a cab that had it's vacancy light on. It stopped and I got in. The cab driver became increasingly belligerent, yelling at me and calling me a "liar" in English. I guess he thought that I understood him and was saying that I had called for the cab, which I hadn't and didn't claim to. He became more irate and threw obscenities in English at me. He said "fuck you" and called me a "son of a bitch". I eventually left the cab as soon as possible and paid him the full fare, regrettably. Unfortunately, I didn't get the guy's name or license number as I was a little sting by the brusqueness this ambassador of ill will. I wish I could've reported him.

Now I understand there is some degree of tension between Americans and Koreans, but there is no justification for cab drivers to call me a "liar" when I had no lies to tell and certainly no reason to trick cab drivers. There is also no reason for a Korean, cab driver or not, to call me a "son of a bitch". Who is he to refer to my mother as a "bitch"? Granted, he must feel some resentment for having to drive a cab for a living in his middle years, but it makes for poor hospitality to verbally injure visiting professors (or any foreigners, for that matter) when they have no ability to understand the language or the unfortunate situations they find themselves in. While nothing says "Welcome to Korea" like calling an English professor as a "son of a bitch" and a "liar", it does precious little to endear the city to visitors. At least I will have a good story to tell when I get home, which can't come soon enough, in all honesty.

My advice to foreign visitors is to avoid using taxis at all costs. You are subjecting yourself to a torrent of obscene epithets and will likely be overcharged for your ride, all on account of being non-Korean. Your best bet is to take the bus. The routes are listed on this website. Better still, avoid Pohang altogether. There are few attractions worth seeing here and, as I have often experienced, Pohang is one the least foreigner-friendly cities in Korea.


  1. I am a foreigner living in Pohang. I find the exact opposite to be true. The people here are very friendly, the city is near the beach and the air and water are clean. I ride the taxi all the time and have never had a problem. I'm sorry if one guy was having a bad day, but I don't think this one cab episode you hadsays anything about cabs, Pohang, or Koreans at all. It is just a good story about about a bad cab ride.

  2. Matt, I agree with you man, I have no idea why the Pohang City Council would post this letter. They must have read the title and nothing more. So far everyone in Pohang - cabbies included - has been really friendly. I hope that anyone who stumbles across this would see it for one it is: the chip on one guy's shoulder.
    (Side note: How long have you been in Pohang? Do you really find the air and water to be clean? I'm just asking out of curiosity, b/c I was waking up with a sore throat for my first two weeks here, and couldn't really attribute it to anything other than possible pollution from POSCO.)


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