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Kakao taxi-hailing service ‘unethical,’ Yoon says

By Choi Si-young

Published : Nov. 1, 2023 - 22:32

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A franchise taxi in Seoul on November 2, 2023. (Yonhap) A franchise taxi in Seoul on November 2, 2023. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol said the country’s most popular taxi-hailing service from Kakao Mobility demonstrates an “extremely unethical example” of a monopoly, at a regular meeting Wednesday on the economy.

The comments at the gathering, attended by a group of 60 ordinary people in addition to policymakers, were in response to suggestions floated by an audience member who asked about lowering the fees taxis pay to the tech giant’s mobility unit, which controls about 90 percent of the ride-hailing market.

“We need to do something about it,” Yoon was quoted as saying to his finance minister on the spot, according to reports.

In February, the Fair Trade Commission fined Kakao Mobility 25.7 billion won ($18.9 million) for favoring its franchise taxis over general cabs when assigning calls by manipulating algorithms. Taxi drivers seeking damages in a suit say the company is seeking legal action to reverse the antitrust regulator’s decision.

The “monopoly of banks” is another concern, as their dominance in the market often turns to abusive behavior, Yoon said. Their establishment as “very strong institutions” often makes it difficult for small business owners to even step into a bank, he added.

Yoon underscored “heeding more voices from the people” in the way the administration runs the government, at the get-together that came a day after he asked for understanding on the government’s budget proposal in a speech at the National Assembly. That came with the smallest increase in government spending in almost two decades to ensure fiscal discipline.

Lee Jae-myung, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, dismissed the outreach, calling Yoon’s speech “disappointing.”

“The government seems to be obsessed with fiscal restraint,” Lee said. “All excuses and no shift (to what) we have demanded so far,” he added, reiterating calls for a major Cabinet reshuffle.

Yoon is falling short in terms of communication with not only the opposition, but also the people, while latching on to foreign policies that do little to serve national interests, according to the party leader.

“We will continue to work on improving people’s livelihoods even if the government abandons them,” Lee added. General elections in April next year will determine whether Yoon’s ruling party can take over the opposition-controlled National Assembly, a 300-member single chamber.