South Korea rejects Uber's proposal to register its drivers

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South Korea has rejected a proposal made by Uber for a new registration system, ruling it’s in conflict with government policy.

The move by the authorities reflects the hard stance the government has taken so far with the online cab-hailing service.

Seoul is already trying to ease the saturated taxi market, and by adopting a registration system, it would only intensify competition and threaten the survival of the existing cab drivers, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, said in a statement Thursday.

The ministry added that services like Uber Black and Uber X are “clearly illegal,” and Uber is ignoring local laws by continuing its services, as its drivers are using privately-owned cars or rented vehicles.

“The Ministry along with the Seoul city will continue to strongly regulate Uber and file suit for any illegal activities,” it said. The government is working to pass a bill in parliament to ban online ride summoning services like Uber’s, it added.

Uber Korea had no immediate response to the government’s decision.

Facing strong resistance from authorities in Korea and other countries, the company has offered suggestions to work with the regulators.

On Wednesday, David Plouffe, a senior vice president of Uber, said during a media briefing that a new technology should be regulated, not banned. He proposed a system to require Uber drivers to register and get legal commercial licenses, which would ensure that the minimum requirements of experience, background check for criminal records and insurance were met, according to a transcript provided by Uber. Such systems are already implemented in cities such as New York, Los Angeles and London, the company said.

In December, Korea filed a criminal charge against Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for allegedly flouting local transportation laws. If found guilty, he could face up to two years in prison, although he was never detained by the authorities. In addition, the Seoul city government offers a reward of 1 million won (US$918) to those who report illegal activities by Uber.

Despite the controversies, Uber raised $1.4 billion last year for an evaluation of $40 billion. The global ride service company also introduced the Uber Taxi service last month working with an existing cab operator in Incheon, the second-largest city in Korea.

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