Ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc. announced Wednesday that it will restart a premium taxi service in South Korea under a revised set of regulations, in an effort to revamp its brand in Asia's fourth-largest economy. The new plan comes months after Uber was banned in South Korea over regulatory concerns.
Uber reportedly said, in a statement, that its UberBLACK service, which uses luxury private vehicles, would be available this year in Seoul as the South Korean government eases regulations. Under the new rules, Uber will register existing taxi drivers to operate their own vehicles and pick up riders using Uber’s mobile app, Reuters reported.
Uber also said that it is partnering with South Korea’s Kia Motors Corp., an affiliate of Hyundai Motor Co., that will provide taxi drivers without their own vehicles a discount on luxury sedans. The service will reportedly use navigation software developed by another Hyundai subsidiary. Uber reportedly said that the new premium service will only involve commercially licensed drivers.
In March, Uber suspended its UberX service that allows ordinary car owners to accept fares. Within weeks of UberX’s ban in March, South Korea’s dominant mobile messaging platform, Kakao Corp., introduced a free taxi-hailing service called KakaoTaxi that it said earned more than 1.2 million total ride requests in its first four months of operation.
In December 2014, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was indicted by local prosecutors for violating South Korea’s licensing laws that prohibit car rental companies from acting as taxi operators.