Seoul is becoming famous all around the world for its concrete attempt to include services of the sharing and collaborative economy in the everyday lives of its citizens. The city is reimagining policies and fostering collaboration and participation; promoting social innovation and the social economy; and paving the path for the sharing economy to thrive.

In this context, the efforts to create a local sharing economy environment are relevant and show the propensity to find local alternatives to the big multinational corporations such as Uber and Airbnb (even if for many experts those corporations do not represent sharing economies, but rather rental economies).

Uber X has been deemed illegal with a declaration of the public authority in July 2014, since it does not comply with the South Korean law that forbids paid transport services by private or rented cars not registered with the authorities. In December 2014, the city launched its own local APP for official taxis with similar features to those of Uber (geolocation means, information on drivers and users, system of rating, etc.). It found a local solution by relying on Daum Kakao (born from the merger of the telecommunications’ company Daum and the phone company Kakao) which created KakaoTaxi, a taxi-hailing smartphone application becoming popular all over in Korea. KakaoTaxi’s service model is operated through a user’s KakaoTalk instant messaging account and is focused on providing a convenient and secure connection between drivers and passengers. Prior to the launch, Daum Kakao signed MoUs with the Korean National Joint Conference of Taxi Association, the Seoul Taxi Association, the Federation of Korean Taxi Workers’ Union and the Korean Taxi Workers’ Union, working closely with major operators to deliver an exceptional taxi experience to all parties involved. Drivers are licensed taxi operators approved via KakaoTaxi’s application process, and passengers automatically receive the driver’s name, photo and vehicle information when their taxi request is accepted. In South Korea, the demand for services to connect passengers and drivers is growing and other companies have begun launching similar applications (similar mobile call taxi apps). All the apps are quite similar, offering the same solutions and guarantees.In addition, LIMO TAXI offers the possibility of choosing cars and drivers; BAEK GISA is a premium taxi service launched by Three Line Technologies Inc. that allows users to customize the request adding a text message; and T-MAP TAXI is an app launched by the biggest Korean phone company, SK Planet.

 Airbnb is taking advantage of the government policies and initiatives built to encourage the sharing economy, flourishing in the city. The unexpected success of Airbnb in South Korea led to Seoul’s inclusion in the list of the cities with the most Airbnb listings, alongside San Francisco, London, and Paris, among others. There aren’t official statistics on the Airbnb business in South Korea, but is evident that the company has made large stridesin terms of local marketing and branding. Acknowledging the success and power of the solution offered by Airnbnb, local solutions are also flourishing. Among the same startups and social businesses selected by the Seoul Metropolitan Government there are entities offering short terms rental vacation solutions. They propose the possibility of experiencing life in a typical Korean House (Hanok) and savoring the local culture and traditions, as this the case with Kozaza (also a member of certified Seoul Stay) and BnBHero (which also offers long term stays). The market for these solutions is growing, resulting in new accommodation options at lower prices and in alternative neighborhoods outside of the traditional hotels districts.

These local solutions reveal the general will of the city not to be bulldozed by the big sharing companies and its tendency to prefer local answers for the city, keeping control and wealth local. Mobility and transport are the main sectors of development of the sharing economy in general and, in Seoul, the municipality is finding a way to offer native responses that follow the business models of the famous corporations, demonstrating autonomy, self-sufficiency, diversity, and resilience. In addition, one can find a surplus of small local businesses related to the sharing economy and social innovation, small realities not yet able to scale but clearly voted to people, communities and local environment, using technology as a tool to satisfy the different needs of a city. This underlies the importance of distributing control and wealth instead of concentrating it.

LabGov is deeply involved in analysis and research about the sharing economy context, as Professor Christian Iaione explains in this interview.


“Sharing City Seoul” è ormai un modello di interesse mondiale. La città sta strutturando politiche ad hoc e supportando la nascita di nuove start up votate alla condivisione e alla collaborazione, e nei settori di mobilità e ospitalità sta proponendo soluzioni locali che richiamano quelle delle principali corporations come Uber e Airbnb. Uber X è stato dichiarato illegale e in sostituzione sono nate app locali, operate da alcune delle principali compagnie di telefonia e tecnologia. Airbnb prospera, ma accanto ad esso sono state selezionate all’interno del progetto Sharing City Seoul alcune piattaforme capaci di offrire il medesimo servizio ma su base locale. La città sta lanciando un chiaro segnale: non lasciarsi fagocitare dalle big corporations ma rispondere attingendo dalle proprie potenzialità.