Korean Bus Drivers Set to Strike

IF YOU’VE EVER had the thought, “Korean taxis are so cheap; why bother taking the bus?” then you might’ve been onto something. And that something has led to a bus strike on Thursday, November 22 and possibly not ending for a while.

A total of 48,000 buses will stop tomorrow, 2,511 of which run through Busan’s 132 daily routes. Seoul will be hit a bit harder, with some 7,500 buses running over 360 routes carrying approximately five million passengers.

“There has not been a single public hearing on this issue, though we’ve expressed our position to the parliament and parties. This is nothing but an impromptu populist measure ahead of the presidential election.

The reason behind the strike is a parliamentary bill, which puts Korea on the road to acknowledging taxis as public transportation. Already, a bill has been passed by a parliamentary committee (read: not everyone in parliament agreed yet) that would enable cabs to legally use bus lanes and get some cash compensation from the government. There’s a vote on Friday with the full parliament to see if the rest of the gang agrees.

When Korea’s 17 bus unions got wind of this, they flashed a red light of their own.

“There has not been a single public hearing on this issue, though we’ve expressed our position to the parliament and parties. This is nothing but an impromptu populist measure ahead of the presidential election,” a bus association official told Yonhap News.

“If the bill passes a floor vote on Friday, we will go on an indefinite strike.”

In an appropriate city response, expect to see way more taxis (and, consequently, way more traffic jams, car horns and impolite lane changes) as well as extended subway hours for Thursday.

Behold the full relevant article on Busan Haps! Timely and informative… almost as if it’s what the media’s there for.

We got yer back, public.

Presidential Primer, Part One: Ahn Cheol-soo

JUST IN CASE you didn’t know, South Korea has a presidential election coming up December 19. It’s a pretty big deal. The Sixth Republic of South Korea has only had five presidents so far, and the current Blue House resident—Lee Myung-bak—has been around since February 2008, which is a huge chunk of Korea’s 24-year-old democracy.

 

“As a medical doctor, professor, self-taught computer entrepreneur, and corporate leader—Ahn is representative of everything mainstream Korea dreams of becoming.”

My first of three analyses of this winter’s presidential candidates. Next two will come up the following two Fridays, marking my re-entry into political journalism, after a stint wherein I quit politics after being blacklisted from speaking with anyone involved in Nova Scotia’s conservative scene. (Long story.)

FIVE THINGS TO SIMULTANEOUSLY LOVE & HATE ABOUT LIFE IN SOUTH KOREA

OH, KOREA! Land of Miracles, Land of Mountains, Land of Superficiality and Antiquated Women’s Rights and Dirt-Cheap Liquor and and and… Where a proud, moving story of democratic triumph in the face of repeated military coups exists snugly south of the creepiest totalitarian regime in the world; where drivers constantly run red lights but I’d never trust another country’s motorist to pass within 3cm of my person; where software development is at a world-class high and yet every website is designed for Internet Explorer. South Korea is where they use spoons for rice and chopsticks for chicken wings, and where the two most valuable qualities in a man are respect and politeness, until, inevitably, your boss demands that you join him in drinking dangerously cheap alcohol and singing the Korean equivalent of Bon Jovi together until you stumble into a taxi at 2 A.M. like drunken teenagers.

… there is no distinction between “stylish” and “hipster”. One Saturday night, I saw a man walk casually into a bar wearing a picture frame around his shoulder, as a prom queen might wear a sash; that is to say, as an accessory.

My latest piece for UK-based TravelMag; in truth just a melange of observations I’ve collected in my six short months here. Here’s to the next six [at least?]!