There is a temporary memorial altar for taxi drivers who passed away at Yeouido Station.
/Photograph by Kim Ji-min
Last December 2018, there were a bunch of cars blocking the roads of Yeouido. Taxi drivers staged a mass demonstration against Kakao Carpool. At the end of 2018, Kakao Mobility, a company which provides online taxi-hailing and parking services, temporarily initiated a carpool service. As a prominent example of the sharing economy, carpool has grabbed attention. In fact, carpool services such as Grab and Bla Bla Car have been implemented worldwide. However, due to the strong opposition of taxi drivers and even accidents such as burning oneself to oppose the carpool, Kakao Mobility has called for a temporary suspension.
What is Carpool, and what is good about it?
According to dictionary.com, carpool is an arrangement among a group of automobile owners by which each owner, in turn, drives the others or their children to and from a designated place. The fare will be subjected to the providers, but usually ranges from 70 to 80 percent of normal taxi fare.
Carpool has several advantages for consumers, as well as an environmental factor. First of all, when passengers call for taxi service, some were rejected due to their destinations. Passengers have felt inconvenience by this behavior. However, since carpool is a service that matches drivers and passengers who are going in a similar direction, there is a low possibility that passengers will be rejected. On top of this, periods such as commuting hours and after festival-times, people have had trouble getting a taxi. Carpool can be a possible solution for this “demand-supply” problem, since drivers will take passengers who are on the drivers’ way. Regarding this, Han Ji-eun (Sophomore, Department of English Language and Literature), commented, “Carpool is good in that the cost is relatively cheaper than that of taxi. Sometimes, I had to face a lot of discomforts since I have seen a lot of cab drivers refusing passengers.”
There is a banner demanding the complete suspension of carpool service at Yeouido Station.
/Photograph by Kim Ji-min
Carpool as a supplement, not a substitute
According to the report by Kakao Mobility, a noticeable result was found. Passengers often experienced significant inconvenience trying to catch taxis during several occasions including rush hour, bad weather, and special events. In order to solve this problem, Kakao Mobility recruited carpool drivers. The number of drivers has been successfully increased to around seven million crews. The service was launched on December 7th. However, every single day, the voice of opposition against carpool was heard from taxi drivers, since this introduction might lead to the loss of their occupation. They initiated their action with mass demonstrations and put stickers around the taxis to show their support for the opposition. Even a taxi driver committed suicide in front of the National Assembly Building. As a result, after 39 operation days, the service has been suspended indefinitely.
Acknowledging that the conflict between Kakao Mobility and the taxi industry is getting severe, the government stepped in to resolve it. Hosted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MOLIT), the first meeting was not successful in that not all three agents including the executives of the taxi industry showed up at the meeting. It was on the day that the protest against Kakao carpool was staged. However, at the second meeting, all three agents including the executives of the taxi industry and Kakao Mobility showed up and reached an agreement. The rough draft of the agreement includes details such as the government promising the development of a system in which taxi drivers who are not on operation hours will be utilized as carpool drivers.
However, this decision has aroused an argument that there is no difference between a normal taxi and carpool. On top of this, it does not follow the primary objective: carpool drivers get to save their commuting expense and users get to commute in a cheaper way. In response, the government announced that they are only at the foundation level, so nothing is decided for sure.
What passengers and taxi drivers are worrying about
Passengers: “We are anxious about our safety!”
Passengers are perturbed that the personal information provided by carpool drivers may be false and incorrect, while taxi drivers are officially verified. Regarding this, Park Do-yoon (Junior, Department of History Education) said, “I am concerned about safety. We do not know whether the information is trustworthy or not. Also, most of the taxis are run by the companies, which means they are registered in the database. We can report the taxi drivers when we experience a problem. However, not only can the carpool drivers’ information be fake but also it is hard to report the inconveniences we may face during the drive. I heard the news that a carpool driver in China raped and killed a woman passenger. It turned out that the driver faked his identification information.” As such, passengers might be exposed to accidents. In fact, on December 25th, there was a reported case of a carpool driver sexually harassing the passenger. Considering this, safety problems have continued to provoke controversy.
Taxi drivers: “The regulation is equivocal”
Taxi drivers have raised concerns about the ambiguity of the law regarding the carpool system. According to the Passenger Transport Service Act, cars operated for an enterprise purpose may not be provided or leased. However, there is an exception. For commuting hours people may provide or lease their cars for a business purpose, which allows drivers to provide carpooling. However, taxi drivers argue that the definition of the “commuting hours” is not clear. The commuting hour really depends on each individual, which means carpooling could be allowed 24 hours.
With this sense of unease of taxi drivers and passengers, how did other countries manage to run their own carpool service?
How Is Carpooling ina Other Countries?
While there is an opposition to carpooling in Korea, it is being utilized actively abroad.
The following examples are the carpooling companies from each country that could be a possible solution for two issues for Korean carpool.
Win-win Approach for Bla Bla Car from France
Bla Bla Car is a carpooling service of France. The main point of the opposition to carpool by the Korean taxi industry was compromise with the taxi industry. It has made a settlement with the taxi industry in another approach. Bla Bla Car has avoided any of friction by providing carpooling from one city to another. While most taxis are used for intra-urban movement, Bla Bla Car has made use of sub-urban movement. With this point, Bla Bla Car has inhibited carpool drivers from profitable drivers. It works in a way that drivers suggest a price according to the distance in service or fuel price. Besides, there is a price ceiling so that the price cannot go too high.
Frederique Boullier, a user of Bla Bla Car, will now share “her story of Bla Bla Car.”
/Extracted from Bla Bla Facebook Page
Q. Could you share your experience of using Bla Bla Car? Do others use it frequently?
A. Actually I am using Bla Bla Car every time I need to go somewhere far from where I am living. Some people are afraid of the driver but personally I never had a bad experience with Bla Bla Car. It was always a good experience.
In my opinion, using Bla Bla Car in France is quite normal and famous, so lots of people are using it for the convenience it provides.
Q. What do you think is the difference between Bla Bla Car and normal taxi?
A. The biggest difference between Bla Bla Car and normal Taxi is the price. Taxi in France is very expensive compared that of Bla Bla Car! Another difference is related to the fact that Bla Bla Car is for long and daily trips (work, travel in France...) while taxi is more occasional and for short distance. Moreover, since you have to reserve in advance, the drivers of Bla Bla Car will respect your own meeting place and time.
As stated above, Bla Bla Car has managed to avoid conflict by utilizing the system for passengers going out of the city. On top of this, it has been recognized as the non-profit service by the Supreme court of France due to its non-profitability.
Safety for Grab from Thailand
Opened its business in Singapore, now all over the Southeast countries, Grab is a carpool service that matches passengers and drivers going the same way. It could be utilized as an option to help resolving the safety problems in Korea. Grab is equipped with a driver evaluation program, a training program, and an insurance policy.
Nich Paibulsirijit, a user of Grab, will now share “her story of Grab.”
/Extracted from Grab Website
Q. First of all, how often do you use Grab and when do you use it?
A. I use Grab quite often, around five times per week. My friends and family also use the service a lot. I usually use it when I do not want to drive somewhere because of the traffic jam, or do not want to risk myself to find a parking space in the city.
Q. Do you consider it safe? If so, what makes you do so?
A. I heard there is an issue regarding safety in Korea. However, in Thailand, I think it is fairly safe. Grab ensures that the driver’s information is in the database, and tracks the route. In this manner, you can share your drive to other people via social network services. Since the company is so huge that I believe the drivers are well trained. In terms of crimes, as I have said earlier, although there are a lot of people using Grab including me, I have not heard of any cases with Grab.
Since 2013, there have been several attempts to introduce carpooling in Korea. Currently, there is a carpooling service, but it is not settled yet. Just as with Kakao Mobility, a lot of carpooling has failed to settle in Korean society completely. However, referencing other countries examples such as Grab and Bla Bla Car, there will be a way that people could feel free to use carpooling. With the meeting sincerely going on at this moment, there will be a solution that could satisfy people. Also, Kim Hyon-mi, the Minister of MOLIT, showed a willingness to resolve the conflict. On a radio program, the Minister Kim took the stance: “This matter is not a case that the government can unilaterally decide. The meetings will be continued until we find an alternative or solution that citizens, taxi drivers, and carpooling providers could accept.”
Kim Ji-min firstname.lastname@example.org
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