SEOUL, South Korea’s finance minister said Wednesday that local carpooling services will only get off the ground after an understanding is reached between Kakao Mobility Corp. and representatives from the taxi industry.

The comments by Hong Nam-ki came nearly two weeks after a taxi task force decided to join a social dialogue body meant to resolve disputes over carpooling services.

It remains unclear whether the parties concerned can work out their differences and produce a win-win deal.

In December, heads of four taxi associations boycotted a meeting with the government, the ruling party and Kakao Mobility on how to lay the groundwork for the creation of a social dialogue body.

The taxi associations, which speak for taxi companies and drivers in South Korea, have warned that a hard-won dialogue could collapse if a social dialogue body moves forward on the premise of allowing carpooling services.

Kakao Mobility, the operator of South Korea’s largest taxi-hailing app, began a limited version of its carpooling service in December to work out technological details and reflect on various opinions ahead of its formal launch.

The company has since decided to delay the launch of its formal service following the death of a 57-year-old taxi driver who set himself on fire inside his car near the National Assembly in Seoul to protest the carpooling service plan.

In January, another taxi driver also died in central Seoul in a similar self-immolation in protest at the ride-sharing services.

Kakao has said it will restrict ordinary people to offering carpooling services to commuters at only two periods a day usually during the morning and evening rush hours in line with the current law on passenger transport services.

In 1961, South Korea imposed a ban on commercial transport by private cars, but it introduced an exception clause for carpooling in 1994 for commuting to and from work to cope with traffic congestion.

Taxi drivers claim carpooling services would eventually upend their livelihood as the services could be used 24/7, as flexible working hours have blurred the traditional notion of commuting hours.

Source: Yonhap news Agency