Taxi driver sets himself ablaze in protest at ride-sharing app

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2019-02-11 18:00 Updated : 2019-02-11 18:00
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[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- A 62-year-old taxi driver set himself on fire in his car in a suicide attempt outside a parliamentary hall in protest at the proposed launch of a ride-sharing smartphone mobility app pushed by South Korea's web service giant Kakao. It was the third case of self-immolation in the taxi industry.

The driver, identified by his surname Kim, set himself ablaze and drove his taxi toward the gate of the national assembly complex on Monday. Police and firefighters rescued him after Kim's taxi with slogans plastered on its window collided with a passing car. He was sent to a nearby hospital for treatment.

Two drivers have died 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.

In January, 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. The beta service began on December 7.

Carpooling during commuting hours is legal, but taxi drivers insist Kakao's ride-sharing service would fan an illegally paid service by private cars. 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 an average of about 2.1 million won ($1,874) a month.