Yankee Go Home

Once again, Uber is trying to make inroads in South Korea:

“David Plouffe, senior vice president of policy and strategy at Uber and a former White House adviser to U.S. President Barack Obama, said Uber plans to propose registering Uber drivers with the government. Plouffe revealed the company’s plans at a press conference at the Grand Hyatt Seoul in Yongsan District on Wednesday.

Concerns over the safety of Uber’s ride-sharing service have mounted after a series of sexual assaults in Boston and New Delhi, raising questions about Uber’s management of its drivers.

Uber said such worries would be resolved to some extent through a registration system.”

In cities like L.A. or New York, where cabs are genuinely hard to find, Uber makes sense profit-wise (although allowing unlicensed drivers to propagate is a really bad idea public safety-wise).

But I take a fair amount of cabs in South Korea.  They are never hard to find, and you can even call them (I’ve never had to this this, personally, even when I lived in Seoul).  They are always clean.  They are never older than four or five years, and more often than not redolent of that “new car smell.” (I’m pretty sure Hyundai has some sort of sweetheart deal for cabs here.)

Cabs are also incredibly cheap here.  I take a 20 minute ride very Saturday morning to my Korean class downtown.  On average, I pay the USD equivalent of eight bucks.  And while most foreigners might complain about cabbies who blow through red lights, this isn’t a cabbie thing in South Korea — for better or worse it’s a cultural norm for Korean (Asian?) drivers.

So while I kind of approve of Uber trying to shake up the disgusting cab monopolies in places like NYC/LA/DC, I don’t approve of them trying to “shake up” things in a country that has excellent public transportation in general, and where officially licensed cabbies should be paid more.

You could raise cab fares overnight in South Korea by 50% and they’d still be an incredible bargain, compared to other countries, in terms of price, safety, and convenience.

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