Uber Technologies Inc., now valued at over $18 billion dollars, operates an efficient ride-sharing application that connects passengers and drivers. Although it has faced rapid expansion in major cities around the world, Uber has tackled various bumps along the road including driver strikes and court bansOne unassuming place where it has also encountered opposition though is the global and forward-thinking metropolis of Seoul. Here’s a comprehensive Uber in Seoul run down.

Uber has all but entered the South Korean market unencumbered. Uber first expanded into Seoul with its luxury driver service dubbed uberBLACK (Equus, Benz E-class, and BMW 7 tier cars) just over a year ago. UberX (edit: 4/1/15, now a defunct service) was recently launched as well as a lower cost alternative to BLACK and conventional taxis. The city of Seoul, under instructions from Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport (MLIT), has responded by publicly denouncing Uber’s services and preparing their administration to take action. They are proposing new regulations to bar Uber from Seoul, even going through lengths to warn citizens that several subsections of the Passenger Transport Service Act are being violated.

Uber in Seoul through Gwanghwamun

Uber through Gwanghwamun

The MLIT has honed in on uberX specifically, pegging it as illegal because drivers do not have to acquire the same licensing and certification needed to provide taxi services in Korea. Although Seoul has filed a complaint with police on driver training and passenger insurance (Uber now insures drivers), action was suspended due to lack of evidence. However, a dedicated squad is being prepared to crack down on Uber drivers once uberX’s free pilot period ends. According to the PTS Act, anyone using a private car to provide taxi services can be fined up to 20 million won ($20,000) or receive two years of imprisonment.

Are there other factors contributing to Seoul’s administration fiery efforts to clamp down on Uber’s expansion? The Seoul government has announced recently that they themselves are in the process of developing their own taxi-hailing mobile application to be launched at the end of the year. In addition, as Uber is a foreign company there is an issue of national wealth leaving the country. Also worth mentioning is the clear rift between a conservative city and progressive state administration. President Park Geun-hye has made it well known that the growth of South Korea’s “creative economy” and entrepreneurial ventures are of utmost importance to wean the country from depending solely on Korean chaebols or conglomerates.

Uber in Seoul through Samcheongdong

Uber through Samcheongdong

It seems unbecoming of an international city that prides itself on embracing high-tech and futuristic systems, especially ones that will improve the consumer experience, to block an application’s presence that is filling a demand in the market. Not to mention, the waste of tax payer money in order to create a government-controlled copycat taxi-hailing application. As Uber continues to play a huge role in the global sharing-economy movement, will Seoul be left behind as a socialist mindset continues to push for regulation of certain industries to stay on top of global competition?

Uber in Seoul has shown no signs of slowing down its expansion and services however. As uberTAXI was launched recently as well, this third service seems more secure as actual licensed taxi drivers are being supplied. Uber has signed an undisclosed number of taxi drivers to get its third service up and running with a fine incentive. Drivers are not paying commission to Uber, but receive a subsidy worth 2,000 won ($2) per ride when they source passengers through the app.

uber in seoul, namsan park

Uber through Namsan Park


As Uber is still relatively new here, here are several things to keep in mind that may improve your experience using Uber in Seoul.

1. Use uberX for free rides (update 12.1.14 – pilot promo ended). As uberX has received much scrutiny, the pilot period promotion continues to credit your entire ride (under 50 minutes & within Seoul). The pilot promo was implemented in celebration of Uber’s 1 year in Seoul and to iron out kinks in the uberX service, and continues to run most likely due to current litigation issues. Once the promo period ends, it will be announced on one of their SM platforms below so check frequently if using uberX.

2. Be sure to pinpoint your exact location on the app map when requesting a driver. Wait for your mobile phone’s gps to register your precise spot before requesting. If your Korean is not that great, this will prevent miscommunication as you can watch the driver approach to your location on the map or else they will call you. Also, be sure to set your designated destination point as this could prevent a mix-up as well. Most drivers know enough English, so as long as your current location and destination are clearly set you’re bound to have a smoother experience.

3. Cancel a driver and request again if you’re unhappy with the car or the rating of the driver. This is especially for uberBLACK. If you’re wanting to travel with a business client you may want a car like an Equus or S-class with more legroom and comfort. If you’re taking out someone important, you do indeed have some control over what car you hail.

4. Gangnam, and then the Itaewon, City Hall, Myeongdong areas tend to have the best availability. Locations like Hongdae and Yeongdeungpo frequently lack drivers, although these areas have improved recently.

5 On us! Use promo code “seoulsync” for 20,000 won off your first uberBLACK ride. As a thank you to our SeoulSync readers and followers, this code is valid until 12/31/14 so we hope you take advantage of it! Most rides tend to fall within the 15-25,000 won range, and you can even get a fare estimate here.

Stay updated on Uber in Seoul by connecting to their various SM platforms.
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Images courtesy of RL.

About The Author


An eclectic soul with a diverse background, Rob has lived in Korea for the past 5 years. An avid interest in Korean culture, high-quality media, and content led him to co-founding SeoulSync. On his down time he plays ball, visits museums, explores new places, and shoots. These days, he channels his photography into the @seoulsync IG and his own personal @rlvism account.