E-Scooters have taken over Seoul. Starting from Gangnam station and branching out, you will see more and more E-Scooters on the streets. They have been popping up over the past few years. Companies like Swing, Beam, Lime, Xing Xing, and Kickgoing have placed their e-scooters near over 100 subway stations in Seoul. It is estimated that more than 20 companies are operating over 50,000 e-scooters in Seoul. However, opinions are divided amongst the citizens of Seoul as to whether these e-scooters are good for the community. There have been many complaints from homeowners, pedestrians, and drivers in Korea. This article will break down the pros and cons of e-scooters in Seoul and see what the future of the e-scooter industry in Korea will bring.

The Benefits of having e-scooters in Seoul

Anyone who has lived in Seoul understands how difficult it is to get around. Especially during peak rush hours, a simple 10-minute commute could end up taking close to an hour. In these cases, cars and buses are of no help. Therefore, the only option is to walk, ride a bike, or take the subway. You can add this to the COVID-19 fears and more and more people in Korea are looking to avoid public transportation at all costs.

The e-scooters are designed to tackle transportation and congestion issues inside busy cities like Seoul. The e-scooters are a form of shared mobility while also being convenient and affordable. Prices for riding these e-scooters vary. There is an initial unlocking fee and riders are charged per minute.

To help with safety, riders in Seoul need to input their driver’s license into the app before they can use the e-scooter. Furthermore, e-scooters are better for the environment than cars, taxis, and even buses. Therefore, overall e-scooters are convenient, easy to use, and fun. The key moving forward keep the riders safe while not infuriating the residents of Seoul.

The problems of having e-scooters in Seoul

The idea of startups in the e-scooter industry is simple. You use your app to find an e-scooter near you. They are usually located near 4-way intersections. Users scan a barcode on the e-scooter and ride it wherever they need to go. The most appealing aspect of e-scooters is that you can pretty much leave them anywhere. However, there are incentives (rewards) for users to place it near a designated area. The startups will be in charge of recharging the batteries and making sure they are where they need to be.

Pedestrians, cars, bikes, and pretty much everyone are trying to adapt to sharing the sidewalks and roads. The problem is that there are no clear rules regarding the use of e-scooters in Seoul. There are no real regulations in place for riders to follow. Can they use the road? Bike-path? How about park running paths near the Han River? However, the major issue is parking. E-scooters in Seoul do not have designated docking stations. Therefore they end up obstructing sidewalks and crosswalks.

Seoul hospitals have many patients with scooter-related injuries. Some of the e-scooter companies have established a 24-hour hotline for district offices in Korea to call so they can come and clear the scooters within 2 hours of the complaint.

Many of these e-scooters were not made to be ridden on rough streets for an extended period of time. It is recommended that these scooters be repaired or replaced every 3 months. However many are used well past their maintenance date.

E-Scooter Startups in Korea Continue to Grow

E-Scooters in Korea

Many of the top E-Scooter startups in Korea continue to get investment. Swing one of the top E-Scooter startups raised $24 million for their Series B round in early 2022. This brings their total investment to $33 million. The funds will go towards branching out of South Korea and into Japan. Swing does not only focus on E-Scooters but also on E-Bikes and even E-Mopeds. Their goal for 2022 is to have over 100,000 of these units.

What makes Swing a startup that has great scalability is its franchise model. This franchise model allows Swing to expand its units at a much faster rate than its competitors. Franchises buy the units from Swing and the franchises charge and maintain the E-scooter, E-bikes, and E-mopeds using Swing’s proprietary software. Currently, Swing has over 50 franchise partners and is expecting to double that number by the end of 2022.

The Future of the E-Scooter Industry in Korea

e-scooters in Korea

There needs to be a shared responsibility between the riders, pedestrians, companies, and the Korean government. In addition, for the e-scooter industry to strive in Korea moving forward, cities like Seoul need to make sure they designate where e-scooters should be ridden and keep them safe for everyone. Through the Raod Traffic Act which went into effect in mid-2021, E-scooter riders must be 16 years of age or over, have a valid driver’s license, and wear a helmet. These new regulations are one step. However, the illegal parking law could drive many E-Scooter providers out of business.

Korean Government Fining Illegally Parked E-Scooters

The Seoul Metropolitan Government fines e-scooter providers for illegally parked scooters. They will charge a towing fee of 40,000 won for every e-scooter not parked in its designated space. In addition, there will be a storage fee of 700 won for every 30 minutes the e-scooter remains in storage. This could get pricy for many e-scooter providers as users have dropped since 2020. To counter this, many e-scooter providers offer riders a reward for leaving the e-scooters in the correct area.

Seoul Government Leading the Way

The city of Seoul announced in late 2021, that they will build over 60,000 city electric motorcycles, including e-mopeds, and install over 200,000 additional electric charging stations by 2025. In addition, they plan to replace over 35,000 gas motorcycles used by delivery services with electric motors. Their aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Korean government and e-scooter companies are looking to sign an agreement as soon as possible after the COVID-19 situation stabilizes. They will come up with a set of laws to define the legal status of these operators.

Currently, operators of e-scooters do not need the approval of the Korean government to start the business. Therefore, all they need to do at the moment is to register with the National Tax Service.  Mobility Startups in the e-scooter space in Korea need to enforce the rules and make sure the scooters are not disrupting local residents and businesses. As for the riders, they need to understand and acknowledge that they are operating a moving vehicle that can cause serious harm to themselves and others. Therefore, it is clear that changes need to be made to make e-scooters safer and less disruptive.