SEOUL, Dec. 21 (Korea Bizwire) — Transport Minister Kim Hyun-mee revealed Friday a proposal already offered to cab drivers for them to adopt a system similar to that used by Uber to solve their chronic business problems, as social conflict was growing over the launch of a commercial ride-sharing platform.
“If you look at Uber overseas, one can make reservations by connecting vehicles with IT platforms and get fares for different value-added services,” Kim said on a radio news show. “If we fit our taxis with (such a system), the services will greatly improve.”
Hundreds of thousands of cab drivers took to the streets on Thursday demanding that the government ban the commercial carpool business by Kakao Corp.
They say such business will further damage the taxi industry suffering from ever-falling profits.
Kakao has delayed the release of the Kakao T Carpool service, which was originally planned for a launch on Monday this week.
Kim made the comments as she was highlighting a solution to the structural problems of the taxi industry.
“The difficulties for cab drivers do not come from carpooling business but from the structural problems in their treatment,” the minister said. “The fundamental solution is to do away with their mandatory payments to their companies and implement a full salary system.”
Hired cab drivers have to pay their employer a daily fixed sum and take home what is left, an arrangement that digs deep into their pockets. Kim explained an average driver makes about 2.15 million won (US$1,914) a month, which is “not even minimum wage.”
“Unless we solve this problem, the conditions for cab drivers will not improve, even if we ban something bigger than the carpool business,” Kim said.
Adopting the Uber system will raise the operational rate of the cabs and increase income, which will help create resources for monthly salary system for the drivers, she said.
Kim said the proposal for the Uber system was already made to the taxi industry, and the response was positive in talks with the taxi union until July.
The union wanted to talk more with other related unions, and they have not responded, according to the minister.
Kim, however, was firm that carpool business cannot be banned.
“Our law permits carpooling during morning and evening commuting hours. Given the current circumstances of the cab industry, it’s somewhat inevitable,” she said.
“We can build a wall against the global trend for IT-based platform services,” the minister said. “If this is a wave that we cannot fight, then we can use it on taxis to improve the cab service and at the same time improve the poor working conditions of the drivers.”