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Sep 7, 2011

Don’t Mess with the Big Boys in Korea: The Google Korea Saga Continues

In the past, raids have been conducted by the National Police Agency concerning alleged violations of Korea’s privacy law stemming from mapping software that is in direct competition with a product from the same parties that filed this present complaint.

This time, the Korean Fair Trade Commission (FTC) raided Google headquarters in Seoul. The raid is intended to reveal information that Google is prohibiting or using tactics to delay the use of Korea’s Naver browsers and other browsers on the Android operating system.

A complaint by the owners of Naver was filed to the FTC in April alleging, in short, that Google Korea has restricted the ability of smart phone manufacturers from pre-loading search engines onto the Android operating system.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, a Google spokesperson is credited with noting that “Android is an open platform, and carriers and OEM partners are free to decide which applications and services to include on their Android phones. We do not require carriers or manufacturers to include Google Search or Google applications on Android-powered devices.”

I have no clue if Google is involved in these types of actions, but isn’t it time for the government to consider the ramifications of these archaic “raids” on the reputation of Korea? Without foreign investment and exports, Korea will be relegated to being in the ranks of one of the numerous less developed Asian nations.

Korea needs the world and needs to improve its image tarnished by the Lone Star, Ssangyong Motors, President Roh's suicide, mad cow disease, fist fighting politicians and other like fiascos. Korea needs the World and the World, as I can see, is not in great need of Korea.

We also can’t forget that without Google, Samsung Galaxy phones would be without an adequate operating system. Samsung’s Bada is not even an operating system, it is simply a kernel to be placed on an operating system.

As the U.S. did to Google for a related matter, would a subpoena to produce documents and other evidence be enough? Should a raid be only used if the government has a belief that evidence will be destroyed or was refused to be given?

I question why the Korean government even needs these hardball posturing tactics. It seems to just have me, and others like me, receiving more calls about Korea's transparency, unique government agencies and archaic enforcement tactics? Many of us on the front lines worry that Korea is increasingly isolating itself from the developed and recently developed world.

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SeanHayes@ipglegal.com