Published : 2013-02-20 10:58
Updated : 2013-02-20 11:09
About one out of five taxis across the country ceased operations Wednesday in protest of a stalled taxi bill, the government said Wednesday.
According to the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs, 31,730 taxis halted operation in the Seoul metropolitan area, well below the government’s expectation. The strike has not hindered citizens much during the morning rush hour, as only 20.7 percent of taxi drivers nationwide joined the walkout.
To minimize citizens’ inconvenience caused by the walkout, the government extended subway and bus operating hours by up to two hours in Seoul and its surrounding areas.
The four major labor unions for taxi operators said the drivers will launch a massive protest later in the day to pressure lawmakers into re-approving the pending taxi bill. The protest will be held in Yeouido, the Seoul district where the National Assembly is located.
The Assembly is currently holding a temporary session until March 5 for legislative proceedings.
The government vowed stern measures, including the suspension of state-funded fuel subsidies or the revocation of licenses, against any illegal protests.
The decision to strike came a few weeks after President Lee Myung-bak vetoed a parliament-approved bill on the taxi business, saying it would give unfair subsidies to the industry.
The controversial bill redefined taxis as public transport eligible for various state subsidies. The parliament passed the bill on Jan. 1 with a majority number of lawmakers both from the ruling and the opposition parties endorsing it.
The government has criticized the taxi bill, saying it would cost more than 1 trillion won a year, undermining necessary state budget needed for welfare plans.