Uber CEO asks for trial deferral

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Uber CEO asks for trial deferral

The CEO of the taxi-hailing-app Uber, Travis Cordell Kalanick, requested that the Seoul Central District Court postpone his trial, which was scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Kalanick was indicted in 2014 along with Uber’s local rental-car partner MK Korea for violating the Passenger Transport Service Act. The law forbids a rent-a-car business from “using commercial automobiles for passenger transport with compensation or engaging in brokering such activities upon request from a third person.”

Uber connects drivers and passengers via its mobile application app. MK Korea provided the cars and drivers while Uber provided the cellphone app.

MK Korea and its CEO were each fined 2 million won ($1,729) last year, but Kalanick did not respond to his summons and refused to stand trial in Korea. His lawyer then contacted the court on June 2 to name a date for the trial, saying, “he will be present to explain in person Uber’s services in Korea and its legality.”

But when the court scheduled his trial for 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Kalanick suddenly backed out, requesting a change of date on Wednesday morning.

Uber began its services in San Francisco in 2010 and has grown exponentially over the years, with some 450,000 drivers using the app each month in the United States today, according to the company. Its service is available in 476 cities.

Entering Korea in August 2013, Uber first launched Uber Black here after forging a partnership with local limousine rental service providers. But the company suddenly hit various regulatory snags after it introduced UberX in August 2014, which allowed anyone with a car and driver’s license to offer rides cheaper than normal taxi rates.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government declared all Uber services illegal in January 2015. Two months later, the taxi-calling service app KakaoTaxi was launched, which only works with licensed taxi drivers.

Uber was eventually forced to limit the customers for Uber Black to foreigners, people aged 65 or older and the handicapped in order to avoid any legal disputes. It scrapped UberX in March 2015.

Later that year, the controversial American start-up was able to reboot Uber Black after the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport revised a bill on passenger cars in September 2015. The revision has made on-demand chauffeur services like Uber Black legal, as long as the vehicles’ engine displacement is 3 liters (0.8 gallons) or larger.

The sticky issue with UberX was its employment of nonprofessional drivers, but the new UberBLACK service cleared that hurdle by exclusively working with experienced taxi drivers.

UberTaxi, a function within Uber app that hails licensed cabs, has remained operational in Korea since 2014.

BY JEONG HYUK-JUN, ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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