Uber halts ride-sharing service in Seoul

March 6, 2015
David Plouffe, the senior vice president of policy and strategy at Uber Technologies Inc., speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Feb. 4, 2015. (Yonhap)

David Plouffe, the senior vice president of policy and strategy at Uber Technologies Inc., speaks at a press conference in Seoul on Feb. 4, 2015. (Yonhap)

SEOUL (Yonhap) — The local unit of U.S. ride-booking app creator Uber Technologies Inc. said Friday it will no longer operate its ride-sharing mobile platform UberX in Seoul, in compliance with city regulations that regard it as an illegal business.

Taking effect from Friday, UberX, a smartphone app that links riders to the nearest driver available in the area, will be suspended for an indefinite period.

“We determined it was in the best interests of Korean riders, drivers and the community,” Uber said in a statement.

Uber added it wasn’t clear whether the company would resume UberX in Korea in the future.

Its premium limousine service UberBlack will still operate within the confines of the local transportation law, which allows limited use of such a service exclusively for the elderly, the disabled or foreigners, among a few other categories.

The decision by Uber comes only about a week after the U.S. app company said it will provide UberX free of charge, a move seen as a counteraction to the Seoul city government’s ban on the disputed mobile platform.

Seoul is one of the many cities in the world where Uber has been scrutinized by the public, especially by existing taxi drivers who claim that it hurts their business.

The Seoul Metropolitan City has been acting as aggressively in defense of taxi drivers and began a 1-million-won (US$910) reward program in January for those that report Uber drivers or riders to the city government.

Uber Korea said the decision came after consultation with the city government and that it is committed to working with the authorities and taxi industry toward a compromise.

Its cab-hailing app, UberTaxi, which connects a rider to a licensed taxi driver, will operate as usual, Uber Korea added.

The app currently operates in over 290 cities around the world. Uber was first launched in Korea in 2013 starting with UberBlack, followed by UberTaxi and UberX.

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