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[Herald Interview] ‘Uber can do more good than harm for Seoul’

Car-hailing app seeks to highlight benefits to city government

Calvin Kang. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Calvin Kang. (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Uber, a fast-growing car-sharing app based out of Silicon Valley, said it can boost a wider range of transportation choices for consumers, and encourage the local cab industry to improve its services and abolish malpractices such as ride refusals and overcharging.

Calvin Kang, general manager of Uber Korea, said that it hopes to convince the Seoul government via a dialogue to see these positive social effects from having Uber maintain operations in the city, in line with South Korea’s creative economy vision.

“I think Uber is a new megatrend which will create a great impact on society, like many other inventions, such as automobiles,” Kang told The Korea Herald.

Seoul recently announced a move to shut down the taxi-fetching app as its premium limousine service Uber Black violated local transportation laws forbidding the use of privately owned or rented cars for commercial purposes.

It currently faces numerous bans worldwide following its disruptions to the conventional cab industry with its innovative services that allow smartphone users to quickly and easily call for rides.

Kang added that Uber can also financially help drivers of the taxi-fetching app, more than traditional cabbies, who have to cough up about 40 percent of their monthly income as commission fees to their taxi companies.

A New York City taxi driver partnered with Uber annually earns $90,000 on average, three times more than a traditional cabby, according to news reports.

“Taxi companies have to catch up with the (technological) changes happening right now and do something for both drivers and customers, or they will lag behind,” Kang said.

“Uber can provide more financial returns to drivers than traditional taxi services do as the application can give them easy access to customers.”

In Korea, where safety has become a rising concern following the Sewol ferry accident, the general manager said Uber riders and drivers rate each other, and those who constantly receive poor ratings will not be allowed to use its service.

Also, customers can monitor their drivers via a smartphone navigation system, and claim compensation should they feel that they have been overcharged because drivers took them on a wrong or longer route.

Uber was established in 2009 in San Francisco, and has expanded to 150 cities in 41 countries, including the United Kingdom, France and Japan.

It started operating last year in Seoul amid growing demand for luxury chauffeur services.

By Kim Young-won (
Korea Herald Youtube