Usually, when a city decides that it hates Uber (UBER), the growing transportation giant just throws its venture capital money into lobbying for the laws to change. Seoul will be having none of that.
Earlier this morning—or at least morning in South Korea—prosecutors from Seoul’s Central District issued an indictment against Uber CEO Travis Kalanick for running an illegal taxi service. The crime could cost Uber over $18,000 in fines, or they could choose to sentence Mr. Kalanick to a maximum of two years in jail, according to Korean news agency Yonhap.
Seoul is coming out hard for the sake of its taxi drivers. After a long investigation, the city council of Seoul passed an ordinance last week offering one million Korean won (US$910.5) to anyone who tipped the city off to Uber’s illegal activities.
In response to the ordinance, Uber wrote a statement on their blog complaining in their typical we-know-best tone that Seoul was in violation of the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement:
Uber considers it disingenuous for the powerful taxi lobby on one hand to posture as a poor victim whose business is being eroded, while on the other hand threatening to exercise its considerable power against national and local politicians, encouraging them to close Uber down.
Seoul may have one of the most aggressive anti-Uber offensives, but will Travis Kalanick actually serve time in a Korean jail? Naw—worst case scenario, he’ll just have to stay the hell away from Korea.