SEOUL, Feb. 2 (Korea Bizwire) — Ahead of the first increase in public transportation fares in eight years, the issue of free access benefits to public transportation is resurfacing as a controversial topic.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government recently decided to raise public transportation fares for the first time since June 2015. The city plans to raise fares by 300-400 won (US$0.25-0.33) as early as April of this year.
Currently, the subway fare stands at 1,250 won and the bus fare is 1,200 won when paid with a card. Raising the fee by 400 won is equivalent to increases of 32 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively.
Roughly one third of the 1-trillion-won yearly deficit borne by Seoul Metro, the city-run operator of the subway system in Seoul, comes from free access benefits.
The city claims that the Ministry of Economy and Finance holds the key to solving this problem.
“Free access benefits were first introduced by former President (Chun Doo-hwan). It is only logical that the central government should at least be responsible for bearing a certain share of the deficit,” said Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon at a press conference held on Monday.
The rising controversy over free access also sparked a debate over raising the age of seniors eligible for free access.
The city had considered raising the age eligible for the free access in 2017, 2019 and 2020, but abandoned the idea after protests from senior organizations.
For heads of local governments and the National Assembly representatives who are selected through elections, this question of free access is a particularly sensitive issue.
Some experts argue that the issue may spark conflict between the old and young generations since the deficit caused by free access has to be paid for by younger generations through an increase in fares.
H. M. Kang (email@example.com)