Yoon’s office vows to firmly respond to unfair treatment of S. Korean companies amid Japan’s pressure on Naver

May 15, 2024

The government will respond firmly and strongly to any unfair overseas treatment of South Korean companies, the presidential office said Monday, as the Japanese government has appeared to pressure Naver to sell its stake in the operator of Line, the biggest messenger app in Japan.

LY, the operator of Line, is controlled by a joint venture between Naver — South Korea’s biggest internet portal operator — and SoftBank of Japan. Earlier this year, the Japanese government issued administrative guidance to LY to “review its capital relationship” with Naver, over a massive leak of user information last year, which was interpreted as pressure on the South Korean company to yield control of Line’s operator.

“The government has until now closely consulted with Naver and not only checked Naver’s intentions but worked to respond on that basis,” Sung Tae-yoon, director of national policy at the presidential office, told reporters during a press briefing.

“In the event Naver decides to maintain its stake and business in LY, we will make sure appropriate steps are taken to strengthen information security and provide maximum support to that end,” he said.

The presidential office’s response came as opposition parties have accused the government of responding passively to an issue directly affecting South Korea’s interests, as Naver developed Line.

“The government plans to provide maximum support so that our companies can freely make decisions without any unreasonable treatment or unfavorable conditions from overseas, and respond firmly and strongly in the event of unfair measures in the least bit against the will of our companies,” Sung said.

Sung added the government has been checking the Japanese government’s position via diplomatic channels, including through the South Korean Embassy in Japan.

He also sought bipartisan cooperation from political circles, saying, “It is clear that the political frame of some encouraging anti-Japan sentiment damages national interest, and is unhelpful to protecting our businesses and reflecting our interests.”