Food deliverymen hold rally in Seoul demanding better work environment

By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 11, 2023, 15:27 Updated : May 11, 2023, 15:27

[Photograph by Lee Na-kyung]

SEOUL -- 100 deliverymen who provide delivery services for restaurants affiliated with Baemin, South Korea's largest food delivery service, held a rally near the National Assembly building in Seoul demanding a better work environment including lowered service brokerage fees, increased wages, and registration system for deliverymen.
According to South Korea's state statistical service, the country's online food delivery service market stood at 2.7 trillion won ($2 billion) in 2017 and it rapidly grew to 25.6 trillion won in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit South Korea in early 2020. Strong government social distancing guidelines were issued to keep people at their homes.
However, side effects also showed while the online food delivery market thrived. Some restaurants raised their menu prices to gain more profit margin and other business operators followed, causing an overall price hike in delivered food. Customer complaints over the quality of overpriced food menus started to increase. Small groups of people launched online campaigns to reduce the use of food delivery services to raise awareness among restaurant operators.
Normally, food delivery service operators charge about 5,000 won ($3.8) per delivery run and a brokerage fee of about 1,000 won. Restaurant owners normally pay half of the delivery fee and the rest is paid by customers. However, the delivery fee varies depending on the real-time demand and other promotions that provide discounts for customers based on the weather or other special conditions like holiday special discount events.
100 members of "Rider Union," a union of Baemin deliverymen, gathered in Yeouido, an area near central Seoul where the National Assembly building is located, on May 10 to start an on-bike march to the presidential office in Yongsan which is about seven kilometers (4.3 miles) away. Originally, 200 riders were to join the rally but a court in Seoul limited the number of protestors to 100.
The union demanded Baemin withdraw its decision to reduce the wage of riders, publicly open the rider-dispatching algorithm of the food delivery service, and systemization of a registration program for food deliverymen. Currently, people must take tests and be registered to become drivers for commercial vehicles such as taxis, buses, and freight trucks.
"Deliverymen were once recognized as one of the core labor groups but they are put in a difficult situation through wage cuts and the government's labor reforms," Rider Union head Koo Kyo-hyun said. Koo emphasized the importance of the role of the government and the National Assembly saying: "The government and lawmakers should step up to stop the wage cut by Baemin and secure the safety and survivability of deliverymen."
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