By Jane Han
From downtown Seoul cab drivers to Namdaemun Market wholesalers, Wednesday's oil spike of $100 a barrel is set to make everyday life a little harder, and pricier for average Koreans to pay their bills.
``What news to start the New Year with,'' said Ko Sang-tae, an owner of Hana Taxi, a company operating some 30 cabs in the metropolitan area. ``The rising oil price will directly eat away my profits ― that is, if there are any.''
Ko complained that after paying drivers a set salary, he is stuck with the burden of snowballing gas prices.
He said once the pump price starts reflecting the oil surge, more cabs will be seen parked on street sides, instead of on the road looking for customers.
``It's a waste to be driving around, so I advise my drivers to park at an easily visible spot until riders approach them first,'' said Ko.
At the busy central Seoul Namdaemun Market, wholesalers are saddled with rising crude prices that have jumped about 50 percent since last year.
``When merchants make long distance trips to deliver our goods, they make sure that the price reflects the gas they paid for,'' said Hyun Seung-mi of the Namdaemun Accessory Merchant Association. ``And naturally, the added cost shifts to an adjustment in retail prices.''
Likewise, many industries are expected to see a similar impact, not because the goods have an energy component, but due to the indirect, trickle effect. But some immediate consequences are most likely to be seen in heating, oil and diesel prices.
``Everybody gets excited about the crude price, but it's really the refined products that hit people in the pocketbook,'' Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, a U.S. petroleum pricing information agency, told AP.
Experts say that surging diesel price will impact costs of most transported goods, airline tickets and even postal delivery.
Plastic and some types of fertilizers, which are directly made from petroleum, are also expected to see an adjusted price tag.
Although it seems like this would mean everyday goods, such as plastic cups and foodstuffs, will become more expensive, local retailers say it's too early for that.
``We're concerned that the grim consumer sentiment will affect sales, but we don't have any plans to up product prices because of the oil surge,'' said Lee Sae-young, a spokesman of Shinsegae E-Mart, the country's No. 1 discount retailer.