SEOUL, Nov. 22 (Korea Bizwire) – In the latest chapter of the controversy revolving around rideshare startup Poolus’ 24/7 pickup feature, taxi drivers marched on the Seoul City Hall en masse, dashing the metropolitan government’s plans to hold a town hall meeting of reps from the carpooling, taxi and government sectors to hash out a solution.
Over 400 drivers belonging to four cab drivers’ unions assembled in the heart of Seoul on November 21, calling on authorities to put an end to illegal carpooling businesses, resolving to ensure the “continued survival of taxis to the bitter end”.
The increasingly charged issue first reared its head on November 6, when Poolus introduced a new feature that would enable its carpool drivers to arrange pickups during midday hours, a measure accused by both taxi drivers and the city government as an overextension by the carpooling industry. Previously, Poolus had operated transportation services during traditionally recognized commuting hours (5 to 11 a.m., 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.). Via special request by the Seoul government, the police have been conducting an investigation into Poolus on charges of violating the Passenger Transport Service Act.
Instead of attending the meeting that was planned by the city, taxi drivers opted to air their grievances in the open on a cool November morning.
“Not yet a year since Uber withdrew from the domestic market, similar apps like Poolus, LUXI and uberSHARE that cleverly take advantage of the guidelines governing carpooling have increased exponentially,” they shouted. “Even after subtracting average expenses per individual, each driver makes 300,000 to 500,000 won per month, and some even take home 1 million won in unlawful earnings.”
The protestors named three chief points that they wanted addressed: that Poolus halt its midday carpooling operations immediately; that the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Seoul Metropolitan Government crack down on operators akin to Poolus; and for the aspects of the law that are ambiguous to be revised at once.
The law governing carpooling was introduced in 1995 after car ownership exploded in the late 80′s and early 90′s, causing severe traffic congestion, particularly during rush hour. Both Seoul and the taxi drivers’ unions argue that carpooling was allowed as a means of alleviating traffic problems during commutes, and thus interpretations of the regulations made by companies like Poolus are a departure from the law’s original intent.
Declaring the town hall meeting to be postponed until further notice, the Seoul government office said it will push the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to amend the Passenger Transport Service Act to resolve the issue.