South Korea's biggest Internet search engine operator NHN to enter Japan's search market

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SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea's biggest Internet search engine operator NHN Corp. said it will enter Japan's search-engine market next year as part of its long-term goal to provide online search services in major languages, including English and Chinese.

"We hope to provide service in English, Chinese, Arabic, Vietnamese and more," NHN CEO Chae Hwi-young told reporters last week. "For now, we want to focus on Japan, and based on success in that market we plan to expand into other languages."

NHN's Naver Web site is dominant in the South Korean search-engine field, accounting for 77 percent of the market in terms of page views in November, according to a tally by research company KoreanClick. The Korean-language sites of U.S. companies Yahoo and Google stood at a mere 5 percent and 2 percent, respectively, in the same period.

Experts attribute Naver's success to its focus on human interaction rather than software in getting search results. The site -- which is more like a Yahoo-esque portal than a mere search engine -- provides what it calls Knowledge iN service, which lets users post questions that are answered by other users.

Mr. Chae hopes to bring Naver's such unique quality to Japan, which shares similar social and cultural backgrounds with South Korea as an east Asian country.

"In the search sector, we can provide users with a meaningful service based on a social and cultural foundation," Mr. Chae said. "In this regard, Japan could be a model very similar to South Korea. I believe Japan is where we can excel more than anywhere else."

"I think there will be many opportunities in the Japanese market, which has entered a vibrant stage," he added.

NHN's Japanese search site is expected to open in the latter half of 2007, Chae said.

The South Korean company already operates online game sites in Japan and China. In July this year, it also opened an online game site in the United States.



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