Korean Karma's Gonna Get You
So I got into a cab and told the driver, "Ibis Myeong-Dong Hotel." I pronounced it Eebis, as the Koreans do, not Eyebis. I quickly realized the driver wasn't sure where he was going. He was talking to me in Korean, as if I understood. "I don't understand Korean," I said about five times. The snow added to the difficulty. It was tough to navigate the streets. He made it to the Myeong-Dong district, but then seemed to be going in circles, aimlessly. I got out the map I had with the hotel circled. Somehow that didn't seem to help. It may not be the Lotte (Seoul's biggest hotel), but I think cabbies should know it, especially if shown a map. Finally he asked a guy for directions. That didn't seem to help too much. Obviously Seoul hasn't adopted London's approach to hack licensing. Familiarity with a fairly well-known hotel or the ability to read a map don't seem to be prerequisites.
Eventually he got there. I couldn't see the meter, but I knew it would be much more than the fare should be. When I had taken a cab to the station a couple of days earlier the fare was 3,000 Won (under $3). I got out 3,000 Won and tried to hand it to him. He started yelling and pointing at the meter: 8,600 Won. "Hotel to station, 3,000 Won." I said. He started yelling again and pointing to the meter. I pointed to the hotel. "Come inside." I said. I thought maybe I could get the guy at the desk to translate our altercation. He just kept yelling. I added another 1,000 Won to the kitty. "4,000 Won. That's it!" I said. He yelled some more, then accepted the 4,000. As I was getting out of the cab my inner ugly American surfaced and I said, "Let me teach you some English: 'fuck you!'"
I had accepted the kindness of strangers and got the worst cabbie in Seoul. But I also saved those nice people from the worst cabbie in Seoul.