Going against the tide

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Going against the tide

There was no difference between the ruling and opposition parties when it came to their nasty calculations for more votes in the upcoming general elections. After a controversial bill aimed at outlawing the Tada van-hailing service was unanimously passed by related subcommittees in the National Assembly on Thursday and Friday, it will most likely go through a plenary session pretty soon.

If the ban on mobility is approved, all types of car-sharing services, including Tada, will not be allowed in Korea for fear of their infringement on the existing taxi industry even when over 1.5 million users favor the new hailing service. The lawmakers from both sides of the aisle regard Tada as breaking the law that prohibits a rental car operator from hiring drivers. Who would venture into new mobility services in such oppressive circumstances?

When the prosecution indicted the Tada management in October for violating the existing transportation law, few expected such an anachronistic bill would pass those subcommittees in the legislature. Many citizens were outraged at the top law enforcement agency’s over-the-top indictment of the new mobility service at the boundaries of legality. Even Transportation Minister Kim Hyun-mee was negative about the prosecution’s “rush to indictment.” However, after Blue House Policy Chief Kim Sang-jo opposed the new hailing service, the Transportation Ministry and Finance Ministry suddenly changed their position and supported the ban on Tada out of purely political considerations: They could not ignore the power of the massive taxi industry in the Apr. 15 general elections.

The prosecution’s indictment of Tada has left a bad precedent of leaving the far-reaching issue of whether to allow new services to enter the market to a judicial judgment. The revised bill against Tada — which was proposed by the ruling party in the beginning — translates into a brazen proclamation that the government will not allow any new innovative services to enter the market as long as they do not fit in existing categories. Korea has become a country that discourages the development of new industries rather than one that promotes them.

Opposition parties are no exception. They also stood by the taxi industry in fear of losing votes in the upcoming election. “We don’t have to side with Tada because the taxi industry directly affects the election,” they said. They must listen to Tada founder Lee Jae-woong who lamented, “Is blocking the future the only way to protect the past? What benefits will the public gain if our politicians forbid a mobility service?”
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