January 19, 2021

downloadThe ride-hailing service Uber said Wednesday that it was asking the South Korean government to register its drivers so that it could overcome legal challenges and continue to operate here.

David Plouffe, a senior vice president of the San Francisco-based company, said Uber was eager to find solutions to regulatory concerns among South Korean officials that its service was unsafe and violated local transport laws.

Uber has been working to find a way to operate legally in South Korea since prosecutors here indicted its chief executive, Travis Kalanick, and its South Korean unit in December on charges of violating local rules that require drivers and vehicles used in taxi services to be licensed. In January, Seoul, South Korea’s largest city, said it would offer a cash reward of up to 1 million KRW (about $910) for people reporting drivers of private or rented cars illegally providing transportation through Uber.

The company has services in more than 250 cities globally. But around the world, it has faced skepticism from regulators, and criticism from taxi and limousine services, which consider it a competitor. Last month, it said it planned to introduce background check procedures for drivers in India, weeks after a driver was charged with rape, prompting a ban on the service in parts of the country. Uber has recently shifted its business strategy to sustain its rapid expansion.

In an apparent move to bypass regulations in South Korea, Uber in January announced a deal with a taxi company in Incheon, a populous city west of Seoul, allowing passengers to hail the company’s registered drivers through its smartphone application. But local telecommunications regulators threatened to sue Uber for violating rules on using location data.

On Wednesday, Plouffe said Uber’s new technology should be “regulated,” not banned. In its latest proposal, Uber said a new registration system for its drivers would help remove concerns about Uber services by subjecting them to training, safety rules, background checks for criminal records, and insurance coverage for drivers and passengers.

As Plouffe unveiled the proposal in a Seoul hotel, dozens of local taxi drivers rallied outside, waving banners, including one that read: “Uber, stop trying and just leave Korea!”