Internet-based IT companies express discontent over FTC policy

2017.09.11 18:34:28 | 2017.09.11 18:36:02

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South Korea’s Internet-based information technology companies including Naver Corp. are at odds with the Fair Trade Commission after the antitrust agency classified the top online portal operator as a large conglomerate earlier this month that invites the entity to be under tougher business regulations.

Companies showed even more disappointment when FTC Chairman Kim Sang-jo made a remark in a recent interview with a local media that denounces the country’s Internet-based IT companies, in particular, Naver.

“From a traditional view, Steve Jobs is an autocratic style chief executive, but he was future-oriented and that is why people disliked him yet had respect for him,” Kim said in the interview. “A company as big as Naver (also) needs a vision that sees the future but until now, former Naver Chairman Lee Hae-jin was not able to provide such (vision) to the society like Jobs,” he added.

Kim’s remarks immediately drew fierce criticism among IT entrepreneurs.

Lee Jae-woong, founder of Daum Communications Corp., wrote on social media that he “isn’t sure what kind of great work Kim will carry on in the future” but he cannot but assess that it is arrogant for him to evaluate an entrepreneur that founded the top Internet company in Korea and Japan without a penny and government support like that. Lee added that he is upset as a fellow business colleague.

Lee founded Daum Communications in 1995 and he completely stepped down from management in 2014 when his company merged with Kakao Corp. He is known as a close friend to Lee who founded Naver around the same time.

Lee’s comments on his social media that criticisms FTC Chairman Kim also comes after the antitrust agency earlier this month labeled Naver as a large corporation under the country’s watch list, classifying also Naver founder Lee as an owner that requires the Internet company and himself to follow new business regulations. Companies owned by Lee’s family and relative members are also required to disclose business transactions with Naver.

Lee’s comments on his social media speak for others in the Internet industry that has also expressed discontent towards FTC’s decision to designate Naver founder Lee as an owner.

An unnamed official from the country’s online industry said that chaebol or conglomerate owners have complete control over management through cross-shareholding structure and they openly provide favors to family and relative members but “we are different.”

Meanwhile, some support FTC’s “regulation without exception” principle as venture firms and startups have complained of predominance of Naver.

By Shin Hyun-kyu and Cho Hee-young

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