In Korea in the 1950s, rickshaws were a common sight. This simple vehicle consisting of a sitting compartment for a passenger or two, which was pulled typically by a man, was a general means of transportation for the public. With the advent of technology, it was regarded as outdated, and it eventually disappeared in Korea. These days, however, the rickshaw is making a comeback as a tourism feature, particularly as it can provide tourists with more convenient access to hidden attractions in Seoul. The new version of the rickshaw, a pedicab, is equipped with speakers, so passengers can listen to history of certain places while enjoying the ride. Artee Pedicab, the tourism business for pedicabs in Korea, was founded by a young entrepreneur who graduated from a prestigious university and worked at a promising foreign company. The Hanyang Journal met the ambitious founder of Artee Pedicab, Lee In-jae, to learn more about him.
Taking on Challenges to Achieve a Dream
Q. Before you started your business, Artee Pedicab, there were no other services involving pedicabs in Korea. What made you decide to start this type of business?
A. In western culture, pedicabs are familiar to the public. I actually worked as a rider of one of the pedicabs in Boston during my stay in the United States as a student. I was quite happy with my job that I did for about 100 days. After I returned to Korea however, I applied to a few foreign financial companies for employment with no real definite idea of what to do like other students who returned home after studying abroad. I was able to get a job and became a promising office worker but I soon felt bored with that job. Then I remembered the pedicab business, and I began to design a pedicab in Seoul. I was confident that the service would become popular in Seoul because it provides the opportunity to connect person to person. Finally, I quit my office job and started the business.
Q. You mapped out your career path in your twenties. How were you able to decide and plan things at such early age?
A. If I had not experienced the pedicab in America, I would not have been able to found Artee Pedicab and as a result, my life would have been totally different. Before I started drawing the design for my pedicab, I was unwilling to actually start the business. However, with my friend’s recommendation, I was encouraged and was able to gain confidence. I do not think there is a quick way to find what you are good at, so it is important to just try anything and different things. It is also helpful to look for what you really want. If you find something that is interesting, keep doing it because it might turn out to be your full time job, like in my case.
As the Representative of Artee Pedicab
Q. Your pedicab riders have to meet lots of people and most of these passengers enjoyed the service. What do you think your pedicab means to the riders and passengers?
A. Artee, Artee Pedicab’s brand name, means good friend in Korean. As the meaning implies, we consider all passengers as our good friends, and we try to develop a valuable connection with them. Our pedicab is a means that connect us to passengers. I also always emphasize to my riders that they should regard their pedicab as a kind of stage and the passengers as their audience. In a sense, the rider and passengers have an opportunity to share precious time with each other. A rider can fill the time by giving a narrative about Seoul or just hearing their passengers’ story. The pedicab is a medium through which communication between rider and passengers can be created. It becomes a very interesting and precious experience to riders so most of them including me are satisfied with the work.
Q. It looks to customers that being a rider for your pedicab is hard work. Is it difficult and what are some of the challenges involved?
A. There are differences among the riders. But most have some troubles pedaling uphill when they are driving passengers. However, I think riding is not as hard as it looks and is actually easier in some ways than other types of manual labor. Artee Pedicab’s riders do their work autonomously and spontaneously unlike other workers, such as dishwasher or office workers who repeat similar work all day long with objects not with people. It is hard to find motivation because the result of their work is not often immediate or apparent. However, riders have different times according as passengers and they get feedback right away. Also, most other workers can be replaced by another person but our riders cannot be replaced so easily, because in the case of our regular customers, they remember their rider and specifically request that person. Therefore, even if the work is physically demanding, the riders still find the work rewarding.
Mentoring Youth Start-ups
Q. Your business has been in the spotlight for several years. What do you think of your success?
A. I did not and will not give up on my business because I have a clear goal to accomplish. At the beginning of my business, most people worried about me and even I dropped out of all the startup contests I had applied to because of the negative feedback against pedicab. However, I did not give up. Also, my business item is unique. There was no pedicab service in Korea and I was the only one to start this type of business.
Q. “You Only Live Once,” the slogan of Artee Pedicab, is interesting. Can you give advice to Hanyangians who are concerned about their dreams?
A. I once asked myself, “Are you happy?” I answered that I have never regretted being a rider and I have been satisfied with my life because I have done and continue to do what I want. Many young people have self-imposed restrictions and do not accept challenges especially when it comes to what they want. I would like to encourage them to just try, think about our slogan, You Only Live Once.