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Platform businesses target for innovation, not regulation: minister

Minister Lim Hye-sook (Yonhap)
Minister Lim Hye-sook (Yonhap)

Amid growing calls for regulating thriving digital platform businesses, South Korea’s top policymaker on technology and science called for a shift in perspective, saying they should be seen as innovators rather than a target for regulation.

Minister of Science and ICT Lim Hye-sook made the remarks while meeting executives of Korea’s leading platform companies, including Naver, Kakao, Woowa Brothers and Yanolja. It was the first time that the ministry organized such a meeting with platform businesses.

“It is not desirable to view digital platforms as the target of regulation,” Lim said. “We need to recognize their contributions to society, such as the mask supply apps, no-show vaccine reservation programs and QR code check-ins.”

The message came as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are gunning for alleged unfair practices of local platform operators ahead of next month’s parliamentary audit next month.

The far-left Justice Party’s former chief and aspiring presidential hopeful Sim Sang-jeong even called platform operators the new chaebol, singling out Naver and Kakao. Reforming chaebol, the family-run, large conglomerates which have long been criticized for having oversized influence and cozy relations with those powerful, was once a top agenda of the progressive force.

In addition to the political bashing, the country’s Fair Trade Commission is taking special interest in how large platforms operate, with its chief calling for the need to better protect consumers and small vendors in e-commerce and other areas where platforms are goliaths.

Science Minister Lim stressed that digital platforms are now part of the core infrastructure of Korean society and that regulators and industry authorities should work together to seek new ways to move forward.

“We need a careful approach to them in order not to hinder their innovation,”

Wednesday’s meeting was attended by private-sector experts and members of the academia.

The ministry said it intends to host a regular forum to gather ideas for effective policies that can help raise competitiveness of local platform companies.

By Song Su-hyun (
Korea Herald Youtube