Political circles urges gov’t action on Naver’s Line app row in Japan

SEOUL, May 9 (Yonhap) — South Korean politicians urged the government Thursday to take action on Japan’s implicit demand for Naver Corp. to reduce its control in the operator of the popular Line messaging app.

The calls came shortly after SoftBank, which jointly owns LY Corp., the operator of Line, with Naver, said earlier in the day it was in talks with the South Korean internet portal giant over the control of their joint venture.

The Japanese government has directed LY to “review its capital relationship” with Naver over a massive data leak of user information, apparently pressuring the company to sell down its stake to reduce Naver’s control over LY that runs the most widely used messenger in Japan.

The move has sparked criticism in Korea and worries that the issue could undermine the mood for improving bilateral relations.

Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling People Power Party said the government “must not sit on its hands” when LY is attempting to “oust” Naver due to the pressure from the Japanese government.

People walk into the Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioi Tower, the building that houses LY Corp., in Tokyo, on May 9, 2024. (Yonhap)

People walk into the Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioi Tower, the building that houses LY Corp., in Tokyo, on May 9, 2024. (Yonhap)

“The government must take active steps to protect domestic companies operating overseas and prevent any impact on bilateral relations,” Yoon said in a press conference, calling for a joint inquiry with Naver to figure out the truth.

Yoo Seong-min, a former four-term lawmaker, called on President Yoon Suk Yeol and the foreign ministry to strongly lodge a protest with Tokyo.

“Only when the government responds strongly can Naver, which is facing everything on its own, have the negotiating power,” Yoo said.

Opposition lawmakers blasted the Yoon government for its inaction.

“How much longer do we have to endure the miserable diplomacy of not being able to say a word to Japan?” Roh Jong-myung, floor spokesperson of the Democratic Party said in a readout to the press.

“The government must prevent Japan’s encroachment on Line and protect Korea’s technology,” Roh said.

Lee Hai-min, a lawmaker-elect of the Rebuilding Korea Party, cast the case as Yoon’s “submissive diplomacy” toward Japan, calling on the government to protest against Japan’s move.


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