UberX rides are free in Seoul for a week, but to what end?

Uber Seoul 2

Uber has turned off fares for UberX rides in the South Korean capital Seoul, where the local government has banned the ride-sharing service.

The offer allows passengers to take 30 rides costing up to $27 (KRW 30,000) for free before March 3. It’s an attempt to keep drivers out of trouble, as a citywide ordinance now rewards people for reporting Uber drivers to the authorities.

Making its service free will help Uber stay off the radar, but it’s a temporary solution to a big problem. Unregistered private or rented vehicles can’t be used to offer paid taxi services in the city and that leaves the company out in the cold.

Uber offered free rides during its UberX pilot in Seoul last August too, but government officials in the city said that it would have drivers arrested as soon the service went commercial.

The company strikes a now familiar conciliatory tone in its blog post saying: “We want to actively work towards a consensus, and the first step to that process is switching off the fare. We hope the city accepts Uber’s decision as an indication of our sincere desire to offer our technology to the citizens of Seoul and work towards a regulated framework that consider the Korean government’s needs.

However, the offer of free rides is only good for a week. That could mean Uber believes there’s a quick solution to its legal woes, but it’s more likely that it hopes to gain support from users before going commercial again and challenging the authorities.

On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Seoul is coming down hard on the firm as it plans to develop its own ride-sharing alternative.

We’ve asked Uber for comment on the issue and will update this post when we hear back.

Free UberX in Seoul [Uber Blogs]

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