Korean cabby dies in protest against ride-sharing

A taxi driver in South Korea died after setting himself on fire in his cab on Wednesday, the second such suicide in a month over the introduction of a ride-sharing service.
A taxi driver in South Korea died after setting himself on fire in his cab on Wednesday, the second such suicide in a month over the introduction of a ride-sharing service.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • A South Korean taxi driver set himself on fire to protest against a ride-sharing service being introduced by the country's largest mobile chat app, the second to do so in a month.

The 64-year-old, surnamed Im, parked near the US Embassy in central Seoul moments before his vehicle was engulfed in flames.

The driver remained conscious after he got out of the burning vehicle on Wednesday evening, witnesses said, and was taken to a nearby hospital but died hours later, according to police, who found melted fuel bottles in the car.

Mr Im left a suicide note, Yonhap news agency reported, calling for a ban on what he called "illegal car-pooling".

He is the second cab driver in a month to have died this way to protest against a ride-sharing service created by chat app Kakao.

Ride-sharing companies have cut transport costs and increased services for passengers around the world, but are conspicuous by their absence in South Korea, where the US giant Uber has only a minimal presence.

Uber closed its main ride-sharing service in South Korea in 2015 amid an extensive backlash from cab drivers and now offers only taxi-and licensed-hire vehicle hailing.

 
 

An opinion poll last November found that 58.2 per cent of South Koreans wanted to see ride-sharing introduced, with only 12.5 per cent against.

The Kakao Mobility scheme, which is operating on a trial basis, would allow drivers to provide only two rides a day.

But taxi drivers have protested angrily, saying it would threaten their jobs and livelihoods.

After the first driver suicide last month, Kakao delayed the formal launch of the service, initially scheduled for Dec 17, citing a need for social consensus on the issue.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 11, 2019, with the headline 'Korean cabby dies in protest against ride-sharing'. Print Edition | Subscribe