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KakaoTalk update on Google Play store suspended for week amid payment link standoff

The latest software update for KakaoTalk, South Korea's most popular mobile messaging app, remained suspended for a week on the Google Play store Thursday, following the refusal by tech giant Kakao Corp. to comply with Google's new in-app payment policy.

Google turned down Kakao's submission application for the latest 9.8.6 version of KakaoTalk for Android on Google Play on June 30, citing Kakao's non-compliance with the policy, according to Kakao. The update remained unavailable as of Thursday morning, a Kakao official said.

Google's decision is in line with its new payment policy announced in April, which requires app developers selling digital goods and services on its app market to use Google's own billing system and remove external payment links.

Previously, many app developers on Google Play directed users to external links for payment to circumvent Google's billing policy, which takes a hefty 15-30 percent commission from in-app purchases.

Google has warned non-complying apps will be removed starting in June. This has prompted many content companies to remove external payment links and instead raise prices of content, such as webtoons and digital books, to make up for increased costs due to commissions.

Kakao, however, has apparently decided to challenge Google's policy, which has been widely perceived by the local tech community as a violation of the country's revised Telecommunications Business Act.

The revision, which bans app store operators from forcing developers to use their own in-app payment systems, was passed by the National Assembly in September of last year -- making South Korea the first country in the world to introduce such curbs on in-app billing policies of Apple and Google.

Kakao has kept in place an external payment link in KakaoTalk for its paid Emoticon Plus subscription service. It has also made available the latest version of KakaoTalk in an APK (Android package) file so users can download it from the internet and install it without using Google Play.

Google's latest policy has prompted the Korea Publishers Association to file a complaint with the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), South Korea's telecommunications regulator, accusing the US tech giant of violating the law and requesting a probe into the billing policy.

Amid the standoff, KCC Chairman Han Sang-hyuk plans to hold a three-way meeting with executives of Kakao and Google later in the day to listen to the companies' positions on the matter.

Police have also launched an investigation after the Citizens United for Consumer Sovereignty, a local civic group, filed a formal complaint against Google's new policy last month.

Google Korea did not respond to Yonhap News Agency's request for comments on the KakaoTalk update suspension and complaints surrounding its new payment policy. (Yonhap)

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