Hundreds of thousands of taxi drivers gathered in Seoul on Thursday for a massive protest against commercial carpool services by Kakao Corp., calling for a state ban on "the illegal services."
There have been severe conflicts over Kakao T Carpool, a ride-sharing service by South Korea's top mobile messaging provider, particularly since a 57-year-old taxi driver died last week after setting himself on fire to protest the service that they say "kills the industry."
Kakao has delayed the release of the Kakao T Carpool service, which was originally planned to launch on Monday this week.
"We strongly condemn the carpool plan that annihilates the right to live of 300,000 taxi drivers and their one million family members," Kang Shin-pyo, leader of the National Taxi Labor Union, said during the protest held in Yeouido.
The latest sit-in, the third of its kind, brought about some 60,000 drivers as well as some 2,000 vehicles from across the country, according to police.
"It is an urgent task for the National Assembly to pass the revision that bans such a commercial app service," the union chief said, calling on the government to come up with measures "to eradicate such illegal acts and to improve working conditions for taxi drivers."
After launching several performances to honor the deceased taxi driver, the participants marched along the Mapo Bridge, which caused serious traffic congestion in nearby areas.
No physical clashes, however, took place, though there had been such concerns as the labor union had threatened to encircle the National Assembly with their vehicles or to force their way into the building.
"The ruling party and the government will work together to prevent any violation of taxi drivers' rights," said Rep. Jeon Hyun-heui, who leads a task force under the ruling Democratic Party that is dealing with the issue.
Last week, the government vowed to push for the implementation of a revised salary system for drivers of corporation-owned taxis as part of support measures. Major taxi organizations also agreed to have dialogue with a governmentwide consultative body to seek solutions on the matter. (yonhap)