In the midst of heightened tensions between the country’s taxi union, information technology market players and the government over ride-sharing and ride-hailing services, a taxi driver surnamed Lim, 65, died early Thursday morning after setting himself on fire to protest the launch of Kakao’s carpool service, police said.
Lim’s death is expected to further fuel conflict between the concerned parties, who have locked horns since a similar incident last month involving another taxi driver, 57, who also died after setting himself on fire in protest.
So far the taxi industry has held three major protests, with about 100,000 taxi drivers gathering Yeouido, Seoul, in late December as part of a mass protest opposing Kakao’s carpooling service.
In a four-page note, Lim expressed “deep resentment toward Kakao Mobility” and said the taxi business was struggling, according to police.
Lim was taken to a nearby hospital after setting himself alight Wednesday evening in front of Gwanghwamun Station near Subway Line No. 5, Exit No. 2, but he died early Thursday morning.
Fire fighters put off a taxi on fire after taxi driver Lim, 65, lit himself on fire on Wednesday evening in opposition to Kakao carpool service in front of Gwanghwamun Station. (Yonhap)
With anger building up among cab drivers, President Moon Jae-in said “parties with differing views need to reach a social compromise” with an open attitude.
“Despite changing economic and social conditions in the ‘fourth industrial revolution,’ every now and then there seem to be times when old values are insisted (upon),” Moon said during his New Year’s news conference Thursday.
To resolve the deepening dispute, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea formed a task force and a board consisting of the heads of four taxi organizations.
Those efforts, however, hit a snag after representatives of the taxi organizations refused to cooperate unless the government banned carpooling services.
Korea’s Passenger Transport Service Act prohibits the use of private and unlicensed vehicles for commercial use except during commuting hours.
Due to the ambiguity of the term “commuting hours,” the commercial use of privately owned cars is currently not allowed.
With wide expectations of a fourth rally next week, an emergency committee formed by the four taxi unions has urged President Moon to resolve the matter.
“The ruling party and President Moon Jae-in have turned their backs on powerless taxi drivers. They should step forward and guarantee taxi drivers’ survival to prevent third and fourth immolations,” the emergency committee said in a press briefing held in front of the National Assembly, before heading to Cheong Wa Dae for a meeting with Kang Moon-dae, the presidential secretary for social coordination.
By Kim Bo-gyung (email@example.com