An outdated strikeTens of thousands of taxi drivers waged a selfish strike in order to rally in downtown Seoul on Thursday in protest of a plan by Kakao Mobility — the taxi-calling app many Koreans use to hail taxis — to launch its own carpool service. Nearly 70,000 drivers from the national taxi union gathered in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, for a 24-hour strike.
The strike was met with a cold response from citizens. A strike of such scale should have caused havoc during commuting hours in the capital, but only one complaint regarding the taxi service was filed to the Seoul city government on Thursday. The complaint was that life was better without taxis. Critical comments dominated online posts on the taxi strike.
The outcries from cab drivers failed to draw sympathy from the public because the industry has not kept up with the changing times through upgraded services against new competition. The Fourth Industrial Revolution Committee under the presidential office attempted to host debates with the cab industry over carpool app services last year, but they could not hold even one event due to boycotts from the industry.
The dilly-dallying from the government and politicians has also aggravated the conflict. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport was unable to mediate and persuade the fiery taxi industry. Some politicians even proposed a bill banning carpool services. Car-hailing services like Uber, which are common in the rest of the world, remain unavailable in Korea because of the selfishness and protectiveness of the mainstream industry. The taxi industry and government must reflect on why the public remains disinterested in the conflict.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 20, Page 34