Newspaper Through Professor - 'Taxi’ vs ‘Kakao Carpool’
Professor Kang Kyung-woo explains the heated conflict between the taxi industry and carpool service
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On December 10th, 2018, followed by January 9th, 2019, two taxi drivers killed themselves by setting themselves on fire. It was their strong stand against Kakao’s implementation of the carpool service, and a forewarning of aggravating conflict between the taxi industry and Kakao Mobility (a subsidiary of Kakao, a South Korean internet company). Professor Kang Kyung-woo (Department of Transportation Engineering) shared his view on this controversial social issue.
The current situation: taxi industry vs Kakao carpool
Kakao T Carpool is a new service recently introduced by Kakao Mobility. The app connects the drivers and the users needing a ride, and who have the same destination. Its service seemed to propose many advantages: Traffic congestion is solved. Drivers can make extra money. Users can use the service for a cheaper price than a taxi, and Kakao takes brokerage.
All seemed fine until a conflict arose when taxi drivers revolted against it, claiming that the service was extorting their jobs. “The current law states that any private rental of transportation with a charge is illegal but allows carpool during busy commuting times. The problem is, this ‘commuting time’ has not been specified,” pinpointed Kang.
According to the taxi industry, this vague definition of 'commuting time' allows the carpool business to run 24 hours, significantly menacing the taxi drivers’ ‘right to live.’ Kakao opposes, claiming that the service is not at all against the law for every user has a different commuting time. Also, they argue that it does not severely affect the taxi industry because carpool drivers’ service is restricted to two times a day. The taxi industry refutes this claim by saying that there is no way of knowing whether a driver has used the service more than twice or not. The tense deadlock manifested itself into three strikes of taxi drivers since October and two tragic deaths. Without a solution, Kakao has currently postponed the official launch of the app.
What caused the conflict?--Kang's perspective
The reason behind the taxi driver's furious reaction, as Kang diagnosed, is the economy. As he analyzed, taxi drivers were already suffering from low income, which means losing their jobs to the carpool service seemed fatal to their living. In addition, there is also an issue regarding the cost of their taxi driver’s license. Selling and buying of a taxi driver’s license used to be around 100 to 120 million won. However, after the implementation of the carpool service, even those without a taxi driver’s license can get paid from the passengers, and the license is now only worth around 80 million won. Kang forecasts that it could ultimately cost nothing if the carpool service becomes more popular.
After three months since the beginning of the conflict, both sides are still struggling to find the middle grouund. Kang says it is time for the government to intervene with a mediated settlement. "Kakao should provide the taxi drivers with some financial aid, such as offering a portion of the profit that comes from carpool service," says Kang. "The government, hand in hand with Kakao and the taxi industry, needs to find a middle ground and set a specific rule to support the taxi industry."
Lim Ji-woo firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Lee Jin-myung
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