SEOUL: Tens of thousands of South Korean taxi-drivers held a massive rally in Seoul saying a carpooling service planned by the operator of the country’s top chat app would threaten their livelihoods and jobs.
The protest is the latest challenge to ride-sharing services in South Korea, which has one of the world’s highest smartphone penetration rates, with nearly half its population of about 51 million living in the Seoul metropolitan area.
Backlash from taxi drivers and government regulations in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy have hampered new transport services launched by US-based Uber Technologies and domestic startups.
Protesters wearing red headbands chanted slogans, waved flags and held up placards that read, “Crush the carpooling industry which ignores the taxi industry.”
“They will steal our jobs,” said a taxi driver at the rally, referring to the carpooling app.
Police estimate about 25,000 taxi drivers took part.
On Tuesday, Kakao Mobility, a unit of chat app operator Kakao Corp, started recruiting drivers for its service, after having acquired domestic carpool startup Luxi from Hyundai Motor and other investors in February.
Kakao, which wants to use its dominant position to jumpstart the service matching up drivers with people seeking a ride in the same direction, said it would run the service only during commuting hours to offset a shortage of taxis.
Transport law bans the use of personal vehicles for commercial purposes, but allows carpooling during “commuting hours”.
Kakao, which previously said it planned to launch the service by year-end, said yesterday the timing had not been decided. — Reuters