| Bus drivers will stage a nationwide and indefinite strike (excluding express buses) from Thursday, raising fears of massive traffic chaos. The protest comes after the National Assembly`s Legislation and Judiciary Committee passed a law recognizing taxis as public transportation.
The central, municipal and provincial governments had tried to persuade bus companies until Wednesday midnight against going on strike but in vain. Though cabs are used by a limited number of people and subways run in large cities, the suspension of intra- and inter-city bus services will strand millions of people across the nation.
The committee in a meeting Wednesday passed a revised law on promoting public transportation via agreement from both the ruling and opposition parties.
The National Association of Bus Companies said, "Despite the display of our strong will to suspend bus operations if the taxi bill passed, the political sector passed it to win votes in the presidential election," adding, "We will carry out an indefinite strike as scheduled." Bus drivers will continue their strike until parliament defers the case in a general session.
Bus services will be suspended starting from the first bus Thursday. According to the Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Ministry, a combined 44,000 buses nationwide, including inter-city and shuttle buses, will stop running. A ministry official said, "Certain intra-city and shuttle buses in six large cities including Seoul that introduced a semi-public bus system could drop out of the strike and continue running."
The damage is likely to be bigger outside large cities. According to the Korea Transportation Safety Authority, the bus transport distribution ratio in the country`s top seven cities with a population of 1 million or more is 31.3 percent, and the figure for counties is higher. The ministry said the main means of transportation in counties is buses, adding that people in these areas will be hit the hardest.
The government will run an emergency transportation team headed by Deputy Transportation Minister Ju Seong-ho. In addition, 7,600 rental buses will be used nationwide, including 600 in Seoul and 1,900 in Gyeonggi Province. In the country`s six major cities, temporary subway service will be started and subway train services will be extended one hour.
Related government agencies will cooperate in delaying work hours for civil servants and students by one hour. Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said, "This is the country`s first bus drivers` strike on a nationwide scale, which will result in severe inconvenience for the people. I urge bus companies to refrain from striking and the political sector to delay introducing the revised bill to a general parliamentary meeting."