Monotonous rows of skyscrapers and busy streets filled with honking cars usually form the first image of Seoul, the capital city of Korea. Even Seoulites tend to be surprised at the fact that Seoul is the cradle of Korean history where tradition and modernism coexist. To recall and share these forgotten historical values with others, Lee In-jae founded Ride Artee, a company which provides touring services around the hidden alleys of Seoul on pedicabs.
Started in July 2012, a small seed of idea which started with two pedicabs has grown into Ride Artee with 14 professional riders and six pedicabs. Having spent his high school and university years in the United States, Lee had the experience of riding pedicabs in Boston with his best friend. The memory lasted in his mind until he came back to Korea. While working in the middle of Seoul, Lee found that there are numerous small alleys or quiet places in the city other than the famous tourist sites.
“Linking my riding experience in Boston with the desire to share these valuable places, I came up with the idea of riding pedicabs while showing people around Seoul,” Lee said. “Since Korea is more friendly toward cars rather than bicycles, it was hard to find pedicabs on the street. In this respect, I thought becoming a pioneer for pedicabs would be really fun.”
Ride Artee mainly focuses on introducing old alleys of Seoul around Bukchon, a site where numerous historic places are located. There are three courses in Ride Artee: romance, history and customized. Each of them has its own characteristics fulfilling the different needs of customers. The tour is also provided in English and Chinese for foreign customers. Rather than visiting famous tourist attraction sites, Ride Artee wants to remind people of the hidden historical values of small alleys.
“When I arrange the courses, I try to find spots that are not well-known to other people,” Lee said. “Not only foreign tourists, but also many Koreans are not familiar with the alleys of Seoul. They enjoy listening to the historical stories of those places throughout the ride.”
Even though Ride Artee’s popularity has reached a point where it now accepts five to eight teams for a one-hour tour per pedicab a day, Lee had to face hardships in the field of Korean pedicabs, as all pioneers must.
“Every time I encountered difficulties, such as a minor breakdown in one of the pedicabs or lack of customers, I had to solve it by myself since there was no one to ask for help,” Lee said. “I never gave up and tried to solve the problem in every way. I even provided countless free rides to people in Bukchon, as it was much better than riding empty pedicabs,”
Lee was able to overcome these hard times through his tenacious spirit. He believes that people have their own abilities to solve problems. As Lee started Ride Artee for pure enjoyment, countless different people whom he encounters during the rides always bring happiness to him. Lee finds riding with second-generation overseas Korean visitors especially meaningful, as most of them have special feelings about Korea.
“I remember a man who brought his second-generation Korean-Japanese mother with him,” Lee said. “His mother had always missed Korea, but she could not speak any Korean. She really enjoyed the ride as it was an opportunity for her to cherish her memories of Seoul. After the ride, the son thanked me through Kakao talk message, which I still keep with me.”
Carrying the weight of two full-grown adults with pure human power for almost an hour is an arduous job. Despite being a great bicycle lover himself, Lee lost six kilograms when he first started the service. However, he finds it worthwhile as he places more importance on the pride that the job brings to him.
“Whenever I finish my ride, my heart is always filled with pride,” Lee said. “It is not easy to feel a sense of accomplishment day by day. Ride Artee allows me to enjoy my life to the fullest extent.”
Ride Artee plans to enlarge its activity zone in Seoul and extend to other cities to meet more people. People who want to travel with Ride Artee can make a reservation via its official Web site (http://rideartee.com/) or call (02) 1666-1693.