No monopolies in cyberspace

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No monopolies in cyberspace

Under harsh criticism for its anti-trust and monopolistic practices, local Internet giant NHN - operator of Korea’s largest portal site Naver - announced a set of measures to cooperate better with smaller and venture companies by launching joint services and funds to help support start-ups.

NHN faces a probe from the Fair Trade Commission and a bill from the National Assembly to counter it amid criticisms of its predatory and sprawling business practices using its advertising and marketing edge. Kim Sang-hun, chief executive of NHN, said the company will launch a joint committee with smaller and venture companies to seek ways for symbiotic development and growth. At the same time, the group will create a 100 billion won ($897.8 million) fund to help incubate and finance innovative ideas and start-ups.

NHN plans to introduce a standard contract for joining up with business partners, uphold fairness in the search system by differentiating advertisements from information, and take stronger measures against malicious or obscene content. It will also help local content-providers make inroads to overseas markets. The company more or less addressed all of the issues it came under fire for lacking as the market leader.

Venture firms remain suspicious for the time being. It questions the timing of the announcement. This is not the first time the company pledged to work more cooperatively with smaller competing firms but had failed to follow through. If it does not demonstrate genuine will and action this time, it could face a bigger backlash for dodging political pressure. The company also omitted what it would do with other services, such as real estate brokerage, that the industry says is a predatory invasion.

Some criticize the company for acting as a typical large dominant player offering to help smaller firms in a condescending gesture. It would have generated more sympathy and applause had it promised to concentrate on its original function as a portal site and refrain from invading other fields for greater profits. NHN has also been a disappointment to many because it lost its innovative spirit and entrepreneurship after it became a dominant player in the mid-2000s. We still retain hope in the Internet leader to pave the way for opening, sharing and symbiotic development in the digital age. At the same time, we must come up with regulations to rein in monopolistic practices in cyberspace.

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