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Replacement Drivers Lend a Helping Hand to the Drunk and Stranded in Korea

Drunk and stranded in the middle of the night ? You wont have to worry if you are in Seoul, capital of South Korea. For you will have replacement drivers on call . Thousands of Koreans these days make a living by delivering inebriated people and their cars home.

Their work has become such an essential part of life in Seoul and other major cities of South Korea that the national statistical office last year began monitoring the price of replacement driver services as an element in calculating the benchmark consumer price index. An estimated 100,000 replacement drivers handle 700,000 customers a day across the country, the number increasing by 30 percent on Fridays, according to the Korea Service Driver Society, a lobby for replacement drivers.

The peak is between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m., Hur Rak said. But I usually dont get to bed until 7 a.m. I suffer chronic fatigue, but its the way I make my living.

This whole business is seen as a compromise between competing forces in Seoul: the capitals nightlife and a police force determined to crack down on drunken driving.

The Korean emphasis on teamwork means frequent group dinners, and plenty of bombs, a glass of beer with a shot of whiskey in it. Now, however, the police are putting up random roadblocks to catch drunken drivers, who risk losing their licenses.

Some simply abandon their cars at the sight of a roadblock and flee, figuring that illegal parking is a far lesser crime.

Besides the night hours and low job status, replacement drivers have an obvious occupational hazard: their customers, who can become abusive. There have been reports of a replacement driver stopping in traffic, locking the car and walking away, leaving the customer kicking and raving. My teenage son once asked me not to tell his friends what my job was,. Hur said.

The most common problem, he said, is having customers who cant tell north from south, ea
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