Korean platform cos’ chiefs face grilling at this year’s National Assembly audit

2021.09.17 11:41:32 | 2021.09.17 11:52:48

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Representative chiefs of South Korea’s big platform operators including Naver Corp., Kakao Corp. and Coupang Inc. are summoned to a parliamentary hearing amid political and government move to contain irregularities of big techs and platform leaders during fast rise amid digital migration.

During a plenary session on Thursday, the parliament’s National Policy Committee finalized a list of 21 witnesses and testifiers under the Office for Government Policy Coordination and Fair Trade Commission.

The list includes Kim Beom-su, founder and chairman of Korea’s biggest messaging app Kakao; Kwon Nam-hee, chief executive of Mergeplus; Kang Han-seung, chief executive of Coupang Inc.; and Bae Bo-chan, chief executive of Yanolja Co.

Others are Nexon founder Kim Jung-ju; Namyang Dairy Products Chairman Hong Won-sik; SK Telecom CEO Park Jung-ho; KT CEO Ku Hyeon-mo; LG Uplus CEO Hwang Hyeon-sik; and Nike Korea director Han Min-hwa.

Until now, chiefs of Korea’s traditional large conglomerate Samsung, SK, LG, Lotte and Hyundai leaders had been regular names to be summoned to annual National assembly audits. But this year, leaders of platform operators have become main targets given their companies’ rapid ascent and expansion during the Covid-19 era. SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, Lotte Group Chairman Shin Dong-bin, and Shinsegae Group Chairman Chung Yong-jin are also on the list for now, but they are highly likely to be exempted this year.

Kakao chair will likely be the center of attention as the platform giant that has leapfrogged to become one of the most valuable companies in the country during Covid-19 years has come under a number of charges of unfairness from rapid business expansion.

The mobile platform giant on Tuesday pledged to create a 300 billion won ($254.3 million) fund for small businesses and withdraw from flower and snack delivery services offered by Kakao Mobility.

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Mergeplus CEO will be questioned about recent refund fiasco at the discount app operator while Coupang will face grilling on unfair online platform provisions and Yanolja on excessive commissions.

The show of Namyang Dairy Chairman Hong is uncertain. His company is in a legal battle with Hahn & Company after Hong overturned his promise to withdraw from management and hand over control in the scandal-stained company. Hong signed an agreement with the private equity fund in May to sell his 53.08 percent ownership in the dairy company and cancelled it claiming unfair terms.

Other committees including the Education, Science, and Technology Committee, Public Administration and Security Committee, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee, and Trade, Industry, Energy, SMEs, and Startups Committee are also reviewing the list of witnesses for their hearings. Ruling party lawmakers under the industry committee has applied to ask questions to Kakao, Coupang, and Yanolja leaders, as well as Naver CEO Han Seong-sook and Woowa Brothers CEO Kim Bong-jin.

By Pulse

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