The Korea Herald


‘Competition laws should be more flexible in digital era’

Kakao CEO calls for forward-looking regulations amid fierce competition with Google, Facebook

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : May 23, 2019 - 16:28

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The South Korean antitrust watchdog will be more flexible in enforcing competition laws with the emergence of new services and products in the digital era, its chief said following a meeting with large companies Thursday.

Fair Trade Commission Chairman Kim Sang-jo held a closed-door policy meeting with top executives from 15 companies, including Hanjin, CJ, Kumho Asiana, Kolon, OCI and Kakao -- the nation’s largest companies ranking from 11th to 34th by assets.

This is the fourth time Kim has met top corporate officials since taking office. He urged the leaders to voluntarily improve corporate governance and called for fair business practices, such as eradicating illegal intra-trading deals.

The highlight was FTC’s future role and stance regarding the emergence of new tech firms.

The meeting was attended by Kakao CEO Yeo Min-soo. The firm was newly added to the big-company watch list of the antitrust agency as its assets have exceeded 10 trillion won ($8.4 billion).

“The nation’s competition rules should be flexible because conglomerates are becoming more diverse,” Kim told reporters, citing Kakao, immediately following the talks. 
FTC Chairman Kim Sang-jo FTC Chairman Kim Sang-jo

If the FTC applies uniform rules to all companies with different sizes, industries, and ongoing issues, it would cost them a lot of money and may lead to their failure, he added.

“In the digital society, there are businesses that were not seen in the past, for instance, services provided in return for advertising and (big) data. We cannot apply the previous rules rigidly.”

With the emergence of new tech firms, the FTC should follow global trends, he said.

“We will focus on making a level-playing field where companies can run their business without discrimination regardless of nationality and size. We will not give benefits or disadvantages to local tech companies.”

Before the closed-door meeting began, Kakao CEO Yeo told the FTC and reporters that some local competition laws and regulations based on the past can be obstacles to tech firms doing new businesses with information technologies.

He urged the government to protect local tech companies from overseas companies like Google and Facebook as the latter do not follow local laws since their servers are not located in Korea.

“We are making efforts and investments to compete with global tech firms such as Google, Netflix and Facebook, which may significantly affect society in the areas of artificial intelligence, cloud and self-driving vehicles,” he said.

“Once we are left behind and technology-dependent, we cannot escape.”

By Shin Ji-hye(