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Taxi drivers demand suspension of Uber app

Thousands of taxi drivers gathered in central Seoul on Tuesday to protest against the U.S.-based taxi-calling service Uber, demanding that the government drive the U.S. service out of the local market.

Discontent has been growing among local taxi drivers over the smartphone app service that links passengers with Uber-registered drivers, which was launched in South Korea in August 2013.

Angry cab drivers have accused Uber of violating the local taxi law, which prohibits commercial taxi service by vehicles that are not officially registered as taxis.

Uber is posing threats to the livelihoods of local taxi drivers who are already gripped with widened public transportation services, the growing popularity of one-time driver hiring as well as rising costs for running taxis, a group of about 3,000 cab drivers who gathered in Seoul Plaza in front of the Seoul City Hall, said.

“Uber‘s proactive sales efforts are intimidating the livelihoods of (taxi drivers) when the crisis in the taxi market has already deepened, but the government has only taken a passive attitude,” the drivers said, calling for the government’s stern action.

The drivers also demanded the government ban illegal taxi service by Uber as well as other private vehicles, and called for a reform of the restrictive local taxi development law.

Uber, first launched in 2010 in San Francisco, has met with similar opposition from taxi drivers in other countries.

Mindful of such opposition, the Seoul municipal government had requested the national communications watchdog block the Uber app, but the watchdog rejected the request, saying it is not in breach of the law. (Yonhap)