SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Korea Bizwire) — Subway and public bus fares in Seoul are likely to rise by 300 won (US$0.24) starting as early as next April to meet growing budget deficits after a freeze for nearly eight years, city government officials said Thursday.
The planned hike will bring the base subway and bus fares from the current 1,250 won and 1,200 won to 1,550 won and 1,500 won, respectively, the officials said.
In cash, the subway and bus fares will be increased to 1,650 won and 1,600 won per basic trip, respectively.
The last fare hike took place in 2015, when the base subway and bus fares in the capital city were increased by 200 won and 150 won, respectively.
The proposed fare hikes come as the city government operating subway lines and public buses has failed to secure sufficient funds to compensate for a growing deficit, the officials said.
On Saturday, the National Assembly passed a government budget for 2023 but did not allocate a budget for public service obligation (PSO) compensation to make up for the deficit caused by the free subway use policy for those aged 65 and older, as well as the underprivileged and people with disabilities.
The government has only offered PSO-related funds to the state-run Korea Railroad Corp. in accordance with a law on rail industry development.
“The fare hike is inevitable as PSO compensation was excluded from the government’s budget next year, worsening financial difficulties,” a city government official said.
Free subway and rail rides were first introduced for the elderly in 1984 and were expanded later for the disabled and underprivileged.
The city government has continued to urge the national government to provide financial assistance, citing the huge burden to cover the costs.
The city government said the city-run operator of the subway system in Seoul has suffered an average net loss of around 920 billion won annually from 2018 to 2022.
The bus operator in the capital city has also suffered an average net loss of around 540 billion won annually in the period, the officials said.