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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bus drivers' status and pay up, taxis down

Not living in Korea, I was able to pay attention to the outward changes like the new coloring of buses and new route organization in the Seoul bus system last year, but what I failed to notice was that only then all the route organization and timetables were taken under municipal management (kongyôngje) so that the private companies take care only of the bus operation. I paid attention to that only now as I read from Hankyoreh that the status and desirability of bus driver's job has increased significantly since the new system was implemented, especially if compared to taxi driving. The working conditions of bus drivers have increased, pay has gone up 16% (is now around 2.5 mil W [1900€] a month), bus companies don't have a shortage of drivers anymore, and bus driving is no more an easy entry, easy exit kind of a job. I'm not being sarcastic when I say that in this world it's good to hear that somewhere the worker's lot has improved.
In Finland, the average monthly salary of a municipally employed bus driver in 2003 was 2131 euros (pdf). After taxes, who gets more, the Korean driver in Seoul or his Finnish colleague? From what I've read about the working conditions of the latter, they have not been improving during the last years. Is the municipality of Seoul not making the bus companies compete with each other about the bus routes? Apparently not - don't they know anything about capitalism over there? That competition is development?

So, bus drivers in Seoul have it better than previously, so that the situation that previously many bus drivers wanted to drive taxis has now turned the other, tells Hankyoreh in the article linked above. Taxis have been losing customers to buses, as the bus services have apparently improved (how is it really, dear readers doing on-the-spot observations?) and that with raised ticket prices. Moreover, a person from the Seoul administration tells that taxis are being considered more and more as high-class and not as mass transportation like before. Seoul municipal administration also tells that the average salaries of drivers of private taxis is 2 mil W (1500€) and company taxis 1.25 mil [960€]. So it is no wonder that bus companies are not having a shortage of applicants.

Seoul Sinmun has a feel-good story about the positive effects of the new bus operation and route system.
Chosun Ilbo had a story about the pros and cons of the new system on Dec 15 last year. Less accidents and injuries, faster speed, more passangers, less overall traffic in Seoul; fares 20% higher ["bigger burden for seomin"], discontent in areas left outside of the subway season ticket system, discontent of taxi operators.

Update.
Dear visitors from the ESL cafe: since most of you are staying in Korea and many have been there also before the bus system reform, has the change been so positive that many of the links I have here let me understand from the passanger's viewpoint? Many drivers tell in the linked articles that the stress has been greatly relieved with the new system.
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