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Candlelit Vigils Expand Into War of Portals

Posted June. 14, 2008 08:21,   


Candlelight vigils over U.S. beef imports are triggering a war of portal sites between the industry leaders, Naver and Daum.

While discussion forum Agora of Daum is playing the role of an assembly leading the anti-government rallies in relation to the U.S. beef controversy, Naver, which claims to be politically neutral, is being attacked by some netizens as belonging to the pro-government conservative faction.

Despite the criticism that Daum is aggrandizing emotional reactions by allowing the flow of unfiltered information that are provocative and unlawful through Agora, it nevertheless seems to make full use of the recent situation to catch up with the biggest portal site, Naver.

On the other hand, Naver posted an article titled “Regarding the Recent Misunderstanding” on the first page of the site in an attempt to prevent further spread of the criticism, in which it wrote: “Because we have been cautious not to be politically biased, we might appear to favor one side of the argument in a situation where the other side of the argument is backed strongly.”

In the Internet industry, many analyze that the candlelit vigils are accentuating the contrast between the business models of the two portal sites that had seemed similar to each other until recently.

Lee Hae-jin, the founder of Naver and former chair of the NHN board of directors, is said to strongly dislike the description of Naver as “the first runner of New Media threatening offline media such as newspapers or broadcasters.” Since its establishment in 1995, Naver has striven to become the best search engine of Korea. K-in, the knowledge-searching service provided by Naver, is the biggest contributor that placed Naver on the top rank in the industry in 2004.

On the other hand, Lee Jae-woong, CEO of Lycos and the founder of Daum, is said to have a strong will to replace the traditional media with Daum. Accordingly, he has focused on the expansion of MediaDaum, and has shown great interest in next-generation personal media such as user created contents (UCCs) and Blogger News. A high official of Daum argued, “Daum will exercise influence more powerful than those of existing media companies in the future.”

Some also analyze that the aforementioned strategy of Daum began to prove itself through Agora backed by the recent candlelight vigils.

In the Internet industry, however, many raise concerns that Daum is performing a “risky circus” to catch up with first-runner Naver. Last year, the annual sales of Daum were 214.5 billion won, which is about one third of Naver’s 677.3 billion won in sales.

Some Internet experts say, “During the Roh Moo-hyun administration, Naver used to be criticized as harshly as Daum that it supported the pro-Roh left-wing faction. It is ironical that some netizens nowadays are attacking Naver for being conservative.

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