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Information protection watchdog adds to Uber pain in South Korea

From Seoul city council to the Korean Communication Commission, Uber faces serious legal trouble in South Korea.

Uber nears a standstill as South Korean legal battles escalate. Uber

While many of Uber's teething problems relate to its attack on the taxi industry status quo, South Korea is adding information protection laws to its list of problems -- and in Korea that could see it banished altogether.

The ride-hailing app service now finds itself in legal limbo as the state and city government have both filed criminal suits against the company for breaking local laws.

Seoul's city council has already filed suit against the service for violating the nation's transportation law, which states that only those with taxi licenses may operate a cab. It has declared Uber's services illegal and in December last year said it will offer rewards to those who report the company's activities.

The Korea Communication Commission, the nation's telecommunications watchdog, reported Uber to local prosecutors on January 22 for violating location information protection law.

The related law states that businesses that use location information of their customers must report that to the related authorities, and the KCC claims that Uber didn't comply, despite continuing controversy over the legality of its service in Seoul.

Uber provides GPS data from a customer's smartphone to drivers. A senior KCC executive said that though the convergence of IT and existing services can bring added convenience, it requires proper legal and administrative processes to safeguard consumers.

Seoul's taxi union has also strongly protested against the service -- similar anti-Uber protests have happened around the world -- and has demanded that the company be punished.

Despite the legal action, Uber has continued to provide its app and services and is continuing to recruit South Korean drivers. Its users have also been sending mail, bordering on spam, to council members in Seoul.

Uber officially launched in Korea in August 2013. A spokesman for the company said that it will comply with local laws as much as possible but is yet to prepare an official statement regarding this latest legal development.