Social consensus is urgent

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Social consensus is urgent

In a meeting in August, President Moon Jae-in cited Britain’s late 19th century Red Flag law to highlight the importance of easing regulations. The law was aimed at keeping automobiles from running faster than wagons or carriages. As a result of the regulation, the U.K. lagged behind Germany and the United States in the automobile industry. The president made the remarks in a meeting aimed at easing regulations for internet banks.

What happened in Britain two centuries ago is happening in Korea over the introduction of car-sharing services. Despite the Moon Jae-in administration’s push for the service, it cannot move forward in the face of strong protests from the taxi industry. At a massive rally in Seoul, tens of thousands of taxi drivers demanded that the National Assembly enact a law that prohibits car-sharing services. “Our livelihoods are at stake!” they shouted.

We sympathize. However, such services cannot be banned in the huge wave of the fourth industrial revolution. The car-sharing service is a barometer of a country’s adaptability to the new era. But in Korea, not only that service, but also telemedicine and house-sharing services cannot be launched due to resistance and multi-layered regulations. According to a report by the Korea International Trade Association, “Over 70 percent of the top 100 global innovations cannot take off.” Lee Jae-woong, CEO of car-sharing service SoCar and co-chair of the government’s organization for innovative growth, said Thursday he wanted to resign from the post because of “no progress in fostering the sharing economy.”

Under such circumstances, we have no future. If we cannot even launch car-sharing services, self-driving cars are just a pipe dream. That directly translates into our defeat in the heated global competition for autonomous driving. At the same time, the government needs to protect the weak, including taxi drivers, whose lives will be challenged.

Fortunately, taxi companies, carpool service providers, the government and the ruling party agreed to set up a body for social compromise. We hope the parties involved establish it as soon as possible to reach a consensus. But the government must resist the temptation to comfort taxi drivers with a sugary promise to change from a performance-based pay system to a monthly salary. If the government fails to find a feasible solution, Korea will lag far behind in the fourth revolution.

The government must scrap stifling regulations. If it drags its feet for fear of resistance from existing industries, what Britain experienced in the 19th century could be Korea’s experience now.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 21, Page 34
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