Seoul offers cash for tattling on Uber drivers

The South Korean capital says it will give up to 1 million won, or a little more than $900, to anyone who reports cases of Uber drivers carrying paying customers.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Uber has been warned to slam on the brakes in Korea. Uber

The city government in South Korea's capital is reportedly willing to give hundreds of dollars to anyone who will give up Uber drivers operating illegally within the city limits.

The Seoul government will give anyone who reports a case of an unlicensed driver carrying paying customers up to 1 million won (a little more than $900), local news outlet Hankyung reported on Tuesday. The move, which appears to be specifically aimed at Uber, requires only that would-be customers inform local officials of the alleged violation, and depending on the severity, the city government will give a cash reward.

Uber provides a car-sharing service that allows users to hail a car and pay for it from a mobile app. Taxi consortiums around the world, including some in the US, have charged Uber with operating illegally, saying in some cases that its method for handling transactions is illegal while in others charging the company with not having the required licenses.

All of that has led to a glut of cities and countries -- including New Delhi, India, Portland, Ore., and Spain -- calling Uber illegal. Over the last several weeks alone, Uber has faced increased scrutiny over its methods for doing business, and the company has been hit hard after two drivers -- one in New Delhi and another in Boston -- were charged with sexually assaulting female passengers.

For its part, Uber, which is available in 250 cities around the world, has argued that it continues to operate within the law. The company says it works with local governments wherever possible to ensure its services fit within legal constraints.

Seoul has been one of the more outspoken Uber critics. Back in September, before Uber even officially launched in the city, the local government said that the service would be illegal. Seoul said that it would have law-enforcement officials pretend to be riders and arrest drivers operating through Uber. The city also said at that time that it would establish a reward system for citizens.

Despite the threats, Uber launched officially in Seoul earlier this month. At the time, the Seoul government said that while "there is growing support for Uber" in the city, the company must still "abide by the nation's laws." The government has consistently said that Uber violates the country's laws by having drivers essentially rent vehicles to carry passengers.

Uber has argued that its own independent research showed that the car service was heavily supported by Koreans and "is safer than any other mode of transportation in Seoul."

It appears at this point, given the new reward system, that the city doesn't see it that way.

Neither the city nor Uber immediately responded to a request for comment.