Room- and car-sharing services get a small crack in Seoul under sandbox

2019.11.28 13:43:29 | 2019.11.28 13:53:40

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Limited home-sharing for nationals will become possible in some Seoul districts under a slew of regulatory exemptions for room-sharing and platform-based car hailing service.

The Ministry of Science and ICTs on Wednesday announced eight types of businesses to benefit from the latest regulatory sandboxes, enabling unlicensed products and services to be tested on the market before being subject to the existing laws.

Joining latest grants is local home platform Wehome to arrange room-sharing, currently accessible to foreign nationals – to Koreans. The service will be first restricted to 4,000 hosts offering their home space for maximum 180 days a year under the consent of the house owner (for tenants) and neighbors (for multi-unit dwellers).

Its service homes also must be located within 1-kilometer radius from a subway station in Seoul.

This would be the country’s first inner-city room-sharing service for local customers.

Currently, peer-to-peer lodging service is offered only by foreign platforms, such as Airbnb, in Korea. Similar local services have had their hands tied just watching the ascent of Airbnb in the country due to regulations.

The number of people booking rooms through Airbnb surged last year as the San Francisco-based company is not subject to the local rules and can service out rooms for both Koreans and foreign travelers.

Airbnb accommodations in the country are allowed to use for both domestic and foreign lodgers in rural areas but only for foreigners in city areas.

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The ministry expects the latest deregulation measure would help reduce the dominance of foreign names while giving opportunities to local players to enter the market and more lodging options for Koreans. But the move is likely to have limited impact on the saturated accommodations market. The number of tourist lodging facilities in Seoul surged to 450 in the second quarter this year from 160 in 2012.

The ministry also has allowed Hyundai Motor and KST Mobility to start a three-month trial service for ride-hailing town shuttle taxi in Eunpyeong New Town district in Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul. They can test out the service on monthly fees with six 12-seater vehicles for up to 100 passengers for three months in the first half of next year.

The ministry is planning to expand the service offering to other areas and addition of the vehicles and customers after reviewing the test results.

Sharing a cab is legally prohibited currently in Korea. But Hyundai Motor expects its new mobility service will help ease parking problems, reduce the use of cars for short-distance travels and revitalize communications in local communities, hoping to continue the service after the end of regulatory sandbox.

For the new shuttle taxi service, Hyundai Motor will provide a real-time optimal traffic route guidance system based on artificial intelligence (AI) technology. As a smart mobility solution provider, it now is planning to develop and service new solutions for smaller businesses, said a company official.

Hyundai Motor’s minibus Solati limousine. [Photo by Hyundai Motor Co.]이미지 확대

Hyundai Motor’s minibus Solati limousine. [Photo by Hyundai Motor Co.]

Home Story, the operator of home-service booking app Daerijubu, is another startup benefitting from the sandbox. It is allowed to directly hire housekeepers on its service, which will protect the rights and interests of laborers and help stable supply of workers.

Internet giant Naver also gained approval to do a mobile billing service. Unless and Kakao Pay were also licensed for their joint service that will give credit card receipts in the form of e-papers such as on Kakao Talk messages.

Samin Data System gained an approval to install hybrid electronic scales capable of measuring weight of moving vehicles on roads, which can be used for inspection of overloaded trucks.

By Shin Chan-ok, Oh Dae-seok and Lee Ha-yeon

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