As they were in Pyongyang, call taxis are now popular in other major North Korean cities. According to a source from North Pyongan Province, “Nowadays there are new taxis in Sinuiju that rush to you on one phone call,” the Seoul-Pyongyang News reported on January 3.
“They are known to arrive at the point of departure within ten minutes of call, day or night,” the same source told the South Korea-based online newspaper Daily NK. “The call taxi charges one US dollar for the basic fare, while the ordinary taxi specialized in short-distance service within the city of Sinuiju charges a basic fare of 3,000 North Korean won,” it added.
At the present exchange rate in North Korea, one US dollar is equivalent to 8,000 North Korean won, making the call taxis about three times more expensive than the ordinary taxis. Nevertheless, demand for call taxi is constantly on the increase.
In the meantime, an inside source from South Pyongan Province said that call taxis were first introduced in Pyongsong as early as a few years ago, and became widespread now. According to the source, on a national holiday or family’s birthday, well-to-do North Korean families use a call-taxi service even to family restaurants. The competition between taxi companies is so fierce that individual taxi drivers are trying to attract the customers by handing out a slip of paper with their phone number.
In addition, the call taxi service first appeared in Pyongyang in 2014. In an article introducing the Taedonggang Passenger Transportation Company in Pyongyang at the time, The Choson Sinbo, a newspaper published by the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported that the company was equipped with a “prompt dispatch system” that receives customers’ calls and sends the taxi to the require location.
The taxi cabs in Pyongyang are formally known as “Taedonggang,” but often called by their nickname “Alagi” because their body is splashed with patches of light green and yellow. Passengers may dial 186 on their cellular or landline phone to call a Taedonggang taxi. The dispatcher then contacts the taxi nearest the location and sends it to the customer.
In fact, the introduction and expansion of the call taxi service may reflect a rise in the level of consumption in the North Korean society. It may also suggest that competition among taxi companies is growing fiercer.
– The Institute for Far Eastern Studies