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Uber Korea turns off UberX fare against Seoul's banning policy

Uber Korea, the local unit of ride-booking app creator Uber Technologies Inc., said Wednesday it will make its  ride-sharing service UberX free of charge, in an apparent move to counteract the Seoul city government's ban on the disputed mobile platform.

The decision by Uber, effective from Wednesday, is to "reduce the negative impact on its drivers and their partners and to protect them from an anti-ridesharing ordinance by the city," the company said in a statement.

The Uber apps, including the limousine service UberBlack and UberTaxi, like in many other countries, have been under intense scrutiny here, especially by existing taxi drivers who claim that it eats into their business.

The government has been acting aggressively in defense of taxi drivers, starting a reward program from this year for those who report Uber drivers or users.

The latest decision by Uber to provide UberX for free is seen as a move to resist the Seoul government's anti-Uber policy.

Allen Penn, the head of Uber's North Asia operations, reiterated the call for regulatory adjustments that will legalize the service, as current rules in most countries were made at a time when mobile apps had not existed.

"We want to actively work toward a consensus, and the first step to that process is switching off the fare."

David Plouffe, Uber's senior vice president of policy and strategy, had asked Seoul city to set up a registration system for Uber drivers at a press meeting held in Seoul early this month.

A spokeswoman for Uber Korea said the free fare for UberX will be available for some time, but it wasn't decided for how long the free service will continue.

The cab-hailing app currently operates in over 290 cities around the world. Uber was first launched in Korea in 2013 starting with UberBlack, followed by UberTaxi and UberX. (Yonhap)