SEOUL, Nov. 23 (Korea Bizwire) — A bill banning all carpool activities currently allowed during commuting hours was submitted to the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee at the National Assembly on Thursday, a move that could deepen the divide between IT companies and the taxi industry over the carpooling issue.
The bill specifically seeks the removal of the clause that exempts carpooling activities from the restrictions listed in the current Passenger Transport Service Act, as well as banning all activities related to promotions by carpooling service providers to use personal vehicles for paid transportation.
“The main problem lies with last year’s case where a certain company provided a carpool matching service that allows users to freely select the time of commute,” said Rep. Lee Hun-seung from the Liberty Korea Party.
“This allows the carpooling service to be run 24/7.”
Kim Hyun-mi, Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, countered by noting that “carpool drivers are still restricted to drive two times a day, even if the user can freely choose her time of commute.”
“This falls short of what you call 24-hour operation of the carpooling service,” she added.
Lee also raised the issue of removing the exemption clause, arguing that “the clause that exempts the carpooling service from legal restrictions based on the grounds of traffic congestion fails to make sense when we consider that commuting times are gradually being spread out throughout the day ever since flexible working hours were allowed.”
Minister Kim answered that traffic congestion “involves the real problems surrounding taxis that fail to effectively meet traffic demand.”
“Consumers simply have a difficult time trying to hail taxis,” she said.
The committee plans to hold another plenary session on November 28 to continue the review.
IT companies such as Kakao Corp. and others raised immediate concern and vowed to ensure coexistence with the taxi industry.
The Smart Mobility Forum and the Korea Startup Forum delivered a joint statement on Thursday arguing that banning all carpool activities was “a backward move.”
“Soon, all domestic companies will fall behind, while foreign companies swiftly take over the South Korean market,” they said.
They also stressed the importance of the survival of the taxi industry as well as its competitiveness, vowing to “make efforts to save all industries both old and new.”
The taxi industry took to the streets calling for the swift implementation of the bill.
The Committee of Emergency Measures for Taxis, comprised of various unions across the country, staged a rally in front of the National Assembly.
“We strongly oppose all carpooling activities responsible for undermining the survival of 300,000 drivers under the false slogan of ‘shared economy’,” said the committee in a joint statement.
“The National Assembly should take measures to ensure that the bill is adopted.”
Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)