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A dereliction of duty

Oct 31,2019
Why does the government exist? The question arises after the prosecution indicted two executives responsible for the van-hailing service Tada. The government’s dillydallying on the conflict between new services and existing industries has been delaying the launch of such services as telemedicine and internet banking. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has been more or less negligent in its duty by leaving the mobility conflict to build up to a prosecutorial case.

The ministry has neglected the government role to mediate in the conflict of interests for the sake of the broader public interests and future of our society. Because it stayed inactive, the issue of launching a new industry is now in the hands of the judiciary. Companies may have to seek permission from the government as well as the court to launch new services.

When the taxi industry filed charges against Tada in February four months after it started its van-hailing services in October last year, police referred the case to the prosecution with its “non-guilty” opinion. The prosecution in July sought opinion from the Ministry of Transport, but the ministry stayed reserved, claiming the dispute is under discussions between the new mobility sector and taxi industry. As a result, the future mobility business is now in the hands of the court.

No industry can take off if it falls under the existing laws and system that have been designed in the traditional industrial period. The ruling party shares the fault. It stayed on the sidelines and did not offer to mediate.

On the same day that the indictment was announced, President Moon Jae-in attended a conference on artificial intelligence and vowed to introduce a comprehensive system aimed at removing all the unnecessary regulations. Only hours after Moon declared a sweeping deregulation campaign, two executives from a mobility start-up were indicted. Lee Jae-woon, founder and operator of Tada’s parent Socar, pointed out that the van-sharing platform is used by 1.3 million customers and hires 9,000 drivers, not to mention being operated by AI technology.

Korea is going in the opposite direction when the world is galloping away on AI-based sharing solutions. Building a new industry is as important as protecting the existing cab industry. The government must demonstrate its will and capabilities to fix the problem.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 30, Page 34