South Korea: Third Taxi Driver Self-Immolates to Protest Carpool Services

This picture taken on January 9, 2019 by eyewitness Lee Sang-ho shows a burning taxi vehicle on the road near the US embassy in central Seoul. - A South Korean taxi driver burned himself to death in protest at a ride-sharing service being introduced by the country's largest mobile chat …
LEE SANG-HO/AFP/Getty Images

A third South Korean taxi driver in a matter of months burned himself to death in protest of the growth of carpooling services, Yonhap News Agency reported on Wednesday.

Local police confirmed that the 76-year-old man, only identified by his surname, Ahn, set himself alight at around 3:19 a.m. near Seoul Plaza in central Seoul. Emergency responders immediately took him to hospital where he died from his injuries.

Ahn is understood to have carried out the act in protest of the adoption of carpooling services such as Uber and Kakao Mobility, which have jeopardized the business of traditional taxi drivers. A representative for a local taxi association said Ahn had previously participated in demonstrations against ride-sharing services.

Traditional taxi drivers in South Korea and around the world fear that, as well as damaging their business, the services will be used around the clock, undermining traditional working hours with workers willing to work flexible hours.

On Wednesday, hours after the man’s death, taxi drivers held a demonstration at Gwanghwamun Square in central Seoul calling for the outlawing of a new ride-hailing service Tada. Organizers claimed that 10,000 attended the protest, while police put the figure closer to 3,000.

“We will make all-out efforts to fight to the end, betting the fate of about 250,000 taxi drivers on (the campaign to deter shared mobility),” the organizers said in a statement.

Similar protests have taken place around the world over recent years, with taxi drivers in Spain holding a week-long strike in January that wreaked havoc on the country’s traffic flow and led to multiple arrests, symbolizing the deep chasm between decades-old professions and innovative transport technologies.

There have been multiple cases of self-immolation South Korea in recent months in protest at the rise of carpooling. In December, a 57-year-old taxi driver burned himself to death outside the country’s National Assembly. In January, another taxi driver died after performing the same act of protest, while another man did so a month later but survived the incident.

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