South Korean cab driver burns himself to death in carpool protest

Taxi drivers take part in a protest in Seoul on Oct 18, 2018, against an Uber-like ride-sharing service that will be introduced later in the year. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (AFP) - A South Korean taxi driver burned himself to death on Monday (Dec 10) in protest at an Uber-like ride-sharing service being introduced by the country's largest mobile chat app, reports said.

South Korean taxi drivers have angrily protested against the carpooling service created by KakaoTalk, saying it would threaten their jobs and livelihoods.

American giant Uber has only a minimal presence in the country, offering only taxi- and licensed-hire vehicle hailing after closing its main ride-sharing service in 2015 in the face of an extensive backlash from drivers.

But Kakao is used by more than 80 per cent of South Koreans and in recent months, tens of thousands of taxi drivers have held mass rallies in Seoul to condemn its upcoming car-pooling service, which is due to launch next week.

The 57-year-old driver, surnamed Choi, set himself alight in front of the national Parliament building in Seoul after complaining about the carpooling service, according to the police and Yonhap news agency.

Choi had told another taxi driver that he wanted to set himself on fire "because of the Kakao carpool", Yonhap news agency quoted the man as saying.

He poured fuel over himself while sitting in his vehicle and set himself alight, police said. He was taken to hospital but died hours later.

Choi was a leader of the union branch at his firm in Seoul.

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