There’s good news for Uber in Korea, where it has reopened its Uber Black private car service in the country after nearly a year of uncertainty.
After finding Uber guilty of violating local transportation rules, Korean officials forced the U.S. company to limit Uber Black to the elderly, disabled, government officials and foreigners only. But, as of today, those restrictions have been lifted to enable anyone to grab a ride.
That’s thanks to new regulations which have also allowed Kakao, the company behind Korea’s top chat app Kakao Talk, to offer its own private car service: the not-so-creatively-named Kakao Black. Kakao began offering a ride-sharing service that coupled users with registered taxis from March, but now it is in a position to offer more options — namely a fleet of 200 Kakao Black drivers in Seoul.
(This was the situation for Uber when I visited Seoul earlier this year.)
Today’s news is a positive step for Uber, but its peer-to-peer Uber X service remains out of action in Korea after being closed down in March following government pressure. That’s a situation that it is working to fix next.
“We want to be able to offer more products, so [reopening Uber X in Korea] is something that we’d like to explore with the government,” an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.
As part of opening Uber Black up to a wider audience, Uber said it is working with authorities to help provide more transportation options during challenging times like Friday and Saturday. That’s as part of a “Taxi Happy Zone” being run in the city.
That was echoed by the Seoul Metropolitan Government which called Uber “a real benefit for citizens, especially at times and at locations, such as late Friday and Saturday nights at Gangnam Station and other busy spots, when other transport options are not so readily available.”
Uber’s business is more visible in Seoul, but there’s no update on whether Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is welcome in Korea, however. Authorities threatened Kalanick with jail time last year, but Uber declined to comment on whether the situation has changed.