The country’s police force is currently probing drivers that work for San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. on allegations they breached the South Korea transportation business law, which forbids the use of private cars to transport fee-paying passengers.
Without providing details such as driver names, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency announced in a statement on its website that officials are probing 17 people, among them the chief of Uber’s Korea operations – the police had already gathered 432 pieces of evidence, such as mobile phones. The new legal challenge for the highest valued technology startup in the field – Uber is currently appraised at about $40 billion – comes fresh off December’s indictment of Uber Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick by South Korean prosecutors for setting up an unlicensed transportation business. Uber countered by trying to register the driver operators – a proposal rejected by the government – and by partnering with a licensed taxi operator to still offer its services in Incheon city. The company also had to place on hold its uberX service, with the government declaring it to be illegal.
Seoul’s local officials even set up a reward that can go up to 1 million won ($885) for people acting as whistle-blowers and offering relevant information on drivers that engage in illegal practices by providing Uber services to paying customers. The traditional taxi and limousine operators have engaged in worldwide protests against services offered by Uber and other similar service providers – which allow anyone using a smartphone to hail a ride from private, unlicensed drivers.