Level the playing field

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Level the playing field

The author is an industrial news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.


Mystery 1 — Korean game companies do not release games through Korean app stores. Instead, they use Google’s Play Store. There is a widespread belief that releasing a game on the domestic app market, such as One Store, will lead to a disadvantage in the search and game recommendations in the Google Play Store.

Mystery 2 — YouTube, a Google subsidiary, has more than 80 percent of Korea’s video market, and yet it will be excluded from the copyright fee increase next year because it does not “transmit sound” but distributes “video.” Music providers like Melon asks if they will also be exempt if they start distributing sound and video.

Mystery 3 — When a user downloads Kakao Talk’s emoticons on a mobile device, Google takes 300 won (26 cents) out of the 1,000 won fee. However, any download on the PC version does not give Google a penny.

These cases don’t make sense, and they are all related to global internet giant Google.

The third mystery is the most serious. It reveals the extent to which major Korean companies like Kakao are dependent on Google’s mobile ecosystem.

In the mobile market, Google takes 30 percent of all profit from in-app purchases made within the downloaded apps. Companies like Kakao have their own online payment systems, but also must use Google’s payment system. But Kakao does not insist on using its own payment system because of Google’s mighty influence. In fact, when Kakao opened its own game shop in 2016, the Kakao Taxi app was removed from the Google Play Store.

Under such circumstances, the government has had taken a hands off approach as there is no legal grounds to intervene in Google’s business. Industry insiders say that the government does not understand the problem and lacks the will to improve it. The Fair Trade Commission has been investigating Google’s unfair practice since 2016, but there haven’t been many changes.

The ICT industry distrusts the government and has given up hope. In the game industry, people say that reporting Google’s alleged unfair practices is pointless, because not much will change and only their lives will be ruined.

The government must listen to the voices of different industries and set up guidelines for different areas. A level playing field and a fair referee are needed.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 23, Page 29
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