Korean Hailing App Looks to NYC After Beating Uber in Seoul

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John Jung
Daum Kakao Corp. Director of Business Development John Jung. Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

The operator of South Korea’s most popular taxi-hailing smartphone application is considering expanding the service to New York after overtaking Uber Technologies Inc. in Seoul.

Daum Kakao Corp. may take its two-month-old KakaoTaxi app overseas, with New York among the cities being considered, according to John Jung, director of business development, who said a decision hasn’t been made. Kakao has more than 2 million cumulative bookings and signed up about a third of the nation’s taxi drivers, he said.

“To be honest, even we didn’t expect the market reaction to be this hot,” Jung said in an interview. “We wanted to focus on the basics and there was a lot of communication and actual meetings with the drivers in the process of the development.”

KakaoTaxi’s popularity in South Korea contrasts with Uber, the car-ride booking app that has inspired similar services around the world. Uber in March had to suspend a service for booking private cars after the government deemed it to be illegal and in February taxi drivers demonstrated outside the hotel in Seoul where David Plouffe, a senior vice president at the time with the company, held a press briefing.

Shares of Daum Kakao rose 2.5 percent to 117,000 won at the close of Seoul trading, to their highest since May 29.

Jung says Kakao’s success comes from its willingness to work with the government and taxi industry. The company held briefing sessions for the taxi drivers from January to get as many to sign on as possible before the official introduction of the service in March, Jung said.

KakaoTaxi is also popular with commuters because its software can calculate how long a cab will take to reach the passenger by assessing real-time traffic, Jung said, cutting down the chances that a taxi may be nearby but stuck in traffic.

Uber said it welcomes healthy competition that benefits consumers.

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