Gov’t slams door on Uber proposals

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Gov’t slams door on Uber proposals

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport brushed off a proposal by a jet-setting, high-profile Uber executive that its drivers be registered by the government.

The ministry issued a statement on Thursday saying that the Korean government has no intention of accepting Uber’s suggestions to “legally register” Uber drivers as taxi drivers.

In Korea, there is no central registration system for taxi drivers. One only needs to take a test and get a taxi driver’s license. The government makes each taxi company and each vehicle be registered with a local government.

The proposal Wednesday by David Plouffe, senior vice president of policy and strategy at Uber, at a press conference in Seoul would mean the national government would have to establish a new registration system just for Uber drivers.

“The suggestion actually is a request to implement a taxi registration system in order to meet its goal of getting the Uber system acknowledged in Korea,” wrote the Transport Ministry. “This clearly goes against the current government policy, which has been to control the number of cabs due to an oversupply.

“When competition gets even more heated, this may threaten the livelihood of existing taxi drivers, most of whom are already suffering from poor working conditions,” the ministry added.

Since 2005, the ministry had each city government set a cap every five years to limit the number of taxis. In Seoul, the cap policy has led the city government to stop registering one-driver taxi companies since 2003 to reduce competition.

On Wednesday, Plouffe, who is a former White House adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, called for legal recognition of the riding-share service at a press conference, saying it would help the local cab industry.

Plouffe said the company would implement a passenger insurance program for Uber cabs while also providing all GPS data collected by Uber cabs to the government, which he said would help the government when designing future transportation policies.

In its Thursday statement, the Transport Ministry reiterated that the Seattle-based company’s Uber X and Uber Black services show a clear intention of bypassing Korea’s transport laws.

BY KIM JI-YOON [jiyoon.kim@joongang.co.kr]




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