Kakao starts beta-service of ride-hailing app despite objection by taxi drivers

Park Sae-jin Reporter Posted : 2018-12-07 16:22 Updated : 2018-12-07 16:24
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[Kakao Mobility]

SEOUL -- Armed with a positive public feedback, Kakao Mobility, the smart mobility wing of South Korea's web service giant Kakao, launched the beta test of its ride-hailing service which sparked strong protests by taxi drivers concerned about dwindling income. 

The beta-test of Kakao T Carpool, a smartphone app-based ride-hailing service, began on Friday through a limited number of randomly selected carpool crews, Kakao Mobility said in a statement, adding the carpool service would be officially launched on December 17.

The opinion of government officials, lawmakers and the taxi industry will be reflected in the official service of Kakao T Carpool, Kakao Mobility CEO Jung Joo-hwan was quoted as saying. "We will continue to negotiate with the taxi industry to co-exist during the beta-test period."

Kakao acquired Luxi, a local carpool service operator in February, and started recruiting drivers in October. Taxi drivers have demonstrated, insisting Kakao T Carpool would fan an illegally paid service by passenger cars.

In an October survey conducted by Seoul-based pollster Realmeter, 56 percent said Kakao T Carpool would promote the benefits of citizens while 28.7 percent opposed it. In the Gyeonggi province surrounding Seoul, 60.2 percent was in favor. Kakao said its carpool service using a smart mobility app would ease the rush-hour lack of available taxis.

Kakao T Taxi, a taxi hailing service launched in 2015, has been favored by consumers and taxi drivers together because of its user-friendly interface and easy access. Taxi drivers have endured low income, excessive work and poor working conditions for many years. Uber launched a car-sharing service in Seoul in 2013 but suspended it due to strong protests by city officials and taxi drivers.