SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Korea Bizwire) – A rift has formed between the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the startup community over the legality of a carpool service’s latest feature that ultimately comes down to whether going to and from work in the middle of the day can be considered a “commute”.
On November 6, Poolus introduced on a trial basis a feature which gives drivers the freedom to optimize their schedule by choosing two four-hour shifts for five days a week including weekends, rather than having to stick to the morning and evening commute (5 to 11 a.m., 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.) shifts set in place by the rideshare company.
Expanding carpooling to the middle of the day, in this case the six-hour period between the morning and evening shifts, has been met with disapproval from Seoul.
A city official said, “After considering the grounds on which the relevant law was established, carpools must operate in the early morning or later afternoon during commuting hours from Monday through Friday. The decision to extend carpooling service to the middle of the day and to the weekend, times when traffic congestion [from rush hour] is not even a problem, and giving drivers the option to choose, is based on an expanded interpretation of the purpose of the law’s implementation.”
The official further explained that Poolus’ intention to operate rides in midday makes the company “not a carpool, but in actuality a for-profit, payment-based transportation business”.
Seoul has backed up its bluster by submitting a request to the city’s police force to begin an investigation into Poolus on charges of violating the Passenger Transport Service Act.
In response, an official statement from Poolus released November 8 refuted the Seoul government’s comments. A line defending the legality of its service read: “The feature in question is a service within the legal parameters designating carpooling for commutes laid out in Article 81 of the Passenger Transport Service Act.”
Article 81 does not explicitly define when and how long commuting periods should be, opening the door to multiple interpretations. The company has argued that its initial morning, evening split shifts were a company decision, and the additional feature was released after it decided it was necessary to expand its services.
The 120-member Korea Startup Forum has taken a stand by Poolus, criticizing the city’s actions as “opposite to the present government’s political orientation towards fostering the Fourth Industrial Revolution” and “further intimidating countless startups”.
The startup collective added that deciding commuting hours as simply morning and evening weekdays was an arbitrary and out of line interpretation of the law.
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)