Taxi drivers threaten protest over bill

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Taxi drivers threaten protest over bill

About 300,000 taxi drivers nationwide called for the passage of a bill to designate taxis as public transportation, which would provide more financial benefits to taxi drivers.

They said they will stage a large-scale rally to protest lawmakers delaying the process.

The four groups representing taxi drivers in the country, including the Korea National Joint Conference of Taxi Association, yesterday said that they agreed to stage a rally in front of the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul on Dec. 7.

They said they will bring their taxis and occupy parking areas and streets around the Assembly in protest.

“We decided to fight against politicians who broke their promise with us,” protesters told reporters. “The government has failed to provide solutions for the skyrocketing gas prices, which is destroying the taxi industry.”

The controversial bill, which would designate taxis as a means of public transportation, unanimously passed a legislative committee on Wednesday and was planned to come before the legislative plenary session for approval on Thursday.

It was tentatively halted after facing strong opposition from the bus industry and the government.

At 4:30 a.m. on Thursday, Korea’s first nationwide bus strike started, but they called it off 6:30 a.m. as the government appealed the legislature to defer the vote on the taxi bill.

The bus companies believe they will have to share subsidies with taxis and receive less funding if the bill passes. The central and local governments spend about 1.4 trillion won ($1.29 billion) annually in subsidies to bus companies nationwide. The deadline to approve the budget bill is Dec. 2.

“If the bill doesn’t pass in December, we will occupy the front yard of the National Assembly by mobilizing 250,000 taxi cars,” a spokesman of a taxi association said.

“After that we will stage another rally in Yeongnam [South and North Gyeongsang] and Honam [Jeolla in the southwest] regions.”

“Legislators tried to revise the law too rapidly without a full discussion,” Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said in a meeting held yesterday at the Central Government Complex in Sejongno, central Seoul.

“Government agencies managing the policy should have enough time to discuss the issue with other groups including bus companies in order to provide the right solutions for the public transportation system.”

By Lee Sang-hwa, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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