Uber’s determination to get into the Korean market may have finally paid off as the company announced today that it has partnered with South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group and will expand service following a revision of regulations.
Uber has had a rough go of it in Seoul –one that has seen the US-based firm hit with lawsuits, fierce opposition from taxi drivers and local competition from Korean tech brand Kakao inc.
Previously, the Korean government allowed Uber to provide a premium service that was only available to the disabled, the elderly, government officials and, oddly enough, foreigners.
Last year, Uber was found guilty of violating local transportation regulations –charges that included threatening Uber CEO Travis Kalanick with two-years jail time if he set foot in the peninsula.
The city of Seoul later passed an ordinance offering a 1 million won ($910) reward for anyone who reported illegal Uber taxi activities.
Korean officials eventually settled on allowing the company to operate the UberBLACK service –a premium taxi service with licensed drivers.
However, UberBLACK was limited to servicing only the disabled, the elderly, government officials and foreigners.
Today’s announcement said that all restrictions have been lifted, allowing anyone to make use of the premium UberBLACK service.
Rather uncreatively, Kakao Inc, shortly after the Uber ban, launched ‘Kakao Black’.
The UberBLACK service, which will use Hyundai-made luxury private vehicles, will be available by the end of the year. There was no announcement as to whether part of the deal for Uber was that they only use Korean-made vehicles.
Under the new rules Uber will also register existing taxi drivers to operate their own vehicles and pick up riders using Uber’s mobile app.
Drivers without their own vehicles, will be offered a discount by Uber on luxury vehicles manufactured by Kia Motors, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Kakao also benefits
Rather uncreatively, Kakao Inc, shortly after the Uber ban, launched their “Kakao Black” service, which adhered to regulations by using licensed taxi drivers.
According to Kakao, it’s service provided more than 1.2 million total ride requests in the first four months of operation.
With this advantage, it will make it more difficult for Uber to capitalize on the market in Seoul.
The easing of regulations additionally puts Kakao in a stronger position offer more options by launching its own fleet of 200 Kakao Black luxury taxis.
Kakao Black’s current fleet is comprised of about 100 vehicles, mainly foreign luxury brands including Mercedes-Benz.