Kakao stops test operation of carpool service for dialogue with taxi drivers

Park Sae-jin Reporter Posted : 2019-01-15 16:56 Updated : 2019-01-15 16:56
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[Courtesy of Kakao]

SEOUL -- Kakao, a top web service giant in South Korea, suspended the test operation of its carpool service to facilitate government-brokered negotiations with taxi drivers who have staged angry protests to derail the proposed launch of a smartphone mobility app platform for commuters.

Kakao said in a statement Tuesday that the suspension of its beta service is aimed at creating an amicable communication channel with tax drivers by prioritizing a social consensus. The beta service began on December 7.

"There is no premise for dialogue," Kakao said, adding it could scrap its service to improve the welfare of taxi drivers and ease the inconvenience of passengers together. "We will continue to drive our mobility innovation based on the collaboration with the taxi industry."

Taxi drivers have rejected any discussion with Kakao unless it brings its test operation to a complete halt. Two drivers have immolated themselves in their burning cars. The ride-hailing service, Kakao T Carpool, was to be launched on December 17, but Kakao put it off to negotiate with taxi unions.

Carpooling during commuting hours is legal, but taxi drivers insist Kakao's ride-sharing service would fan an illegally paid service by private cars. An October survey conducted by Seoul-based pollster Realmeter showed that 56 percent of citizens supported carpooling services.

Taxi drivers have endured low income, excessive work and poor working conditions. Government data showed that there are about 269,800 taxis, including 80,800 in Seoul. Taxi drivers in Seoul work for an average of 12 hours a day and earn about 2.1 million won ($1,874) a month.