The Conflict Surrounding Carpooling1)
On January 9, 2019, a fire broke out in a taxi near Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul. Police and fire authorities suspect the taxi driver attempted to kill himself. He is not alone, a similar incident also occurred on December 10 last year. The two taxi drivers’ attempt to burn themselves to death is in protest of Kakao Carpool. Carpooling is the sharing of a vehicle of people going in the same direction. Kakao mobility, the transportation division of Kakao Corporation, launched its carpool service called ‘Kakao T Carpool’. The corporation launched the carpooling service to supplement the shortage of taxis during peak hours. According to reviews by actual users of the service, while they expressed satisfaction at the low cost and comfortable car environment compared to a taxi, they said it is too long to find an appropriate match. Three strikes by drivers were held about the same time the two incidents occurred, and with growing concern, there will be a fourth strike.
The conflict between Kakao Carpool and the taxi industry is continuing. Ki Woo-seok, Project Director of the Korean Taxi Workers’ Union said, "The original purpose of carpooling is to eliminate traffic shortages during rush hour, but the current Kakao Carpool app, operates in the same manner as a taxi business, just with privately owned cars.” The Union also criticizes the commerciality of Kakao Carpool and the restrictions on taxis. On the other hand, Kakao Carpool operators say that it is not replacing taxis and that the carpool system adds as another means of commuting on public transportation. They argue that a person on urgent business would opt for a taxi and not wait the 15-20 minutes to connect with a person going in their direction. However, the biggest problem is that there have yet to be negotiations between the two sides. Therefore, to address the problem, there needs to be small steps such as proper regulations for carpooling and improving the poor working conditions for taxi drivers.
1) Hong Seungpyo, “"Carpool” Causing Mass Protests by Taxi Drivers”, Sisamagazine, January 3, 2019