Korean opposition decries Line affair as price of Yoon’s ‘degrading’ diplomacy toward Japan

Posted on : 2024-05-13 17:27 KST Modified on : 2024-05-13 17:28 KST
Opposition figures decried the government’s response to the ongoing situation, with the Democratic Party leader drawing parallels between the possible Japanese buyout of the messenger app and the annexation of Korea
People enter Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioicho tower in Japan, where Line operator LY Corp.’s offices are located, on May 9, 2024. (Yonhap)
People enter Tokyo Garden Terrace Kioicho tower in Japan, where Line operator LY Corp.’s offices are located, on May 9, 2024. (Yonhap)

Opposition parties in Korea on Sunday criticized the situation surrounding ownership of the messenger app Line as well as the government’s response, linking it to what they describe as the Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s “pro-Japanese behavior.”

That day, Democratic Party lawmakers Jo Seoung-lae, vice chairperson of the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee, and Lee Yong-sun, vice chairperson of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee held a press conference at the National Assembly Communication Building. They accused the Japanese government of “blatantly intervening in the market to snatch away Line, Asia’s preeminent messenger app developed by a Korean company,” referring to Naver. 

They also criticized the Yoon administration for “sitting idly by” and demanded the immediate convening of the relevant National Assembly standing committees and a response at the National Assembly level.

“This unprecedented attempt to seize Line serves as a painful lesson about the terrible consequences resulting from the Yoon administration’s degrading diplomacy toward Japan,” the two lawmakers said. 

One day earlier, Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the Democratic Party, shared a report on Facebook highlighting that Takeaki Matsumoto, the Japanese minister of internal affairs and communications who issued the administrative directives for reviewing the capital relationship of Line operator LY Corp., is a descendant of Hirobumi Ito, and asked, “What is the government of the Republic of Korea doing?”

In another post, Lee wrote, “Hirobumi Ito: Annexed Korean territory; Hirobumi Ito’s grandson: Attempts to annex Line, the cyber territory of the Republic of Korea; the Korean government then and now: Clueless~"

On Sunday, Hwang Un-ha, the floor leader of the Rebuilding Korea Party, along with lawmakers-elect Lee Hae-min, Shin Jang-sik and Jeong Chun-saeng, criticized the administration during a press conference at the National Assembly, saying, “The government must immediately exercise its authority to intervene under the Korea-Japan Investment Agreement.” 

They also questioned, “Why is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs keeping its mouth shut? Has the Yoon administration’s groveling diplomacy toward Japan over the past two years become so ingrained that now they can't even open their mouths?” 

Two Democratic Party lawmakers, Jo Seoung-lae (right), the vice chairperson of the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee, and Lee Yong-sun, the vice chairperson of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, give a briefing on the ongoing dispute over ownership of the messenger app Line at the National Assembly on May 12, 2024. (Yonhap)
Two Democratic Party lawmakers, Jo Seoung-lae (right), the vice chairperson of the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee, and Lee Yong-sun, the vice chairperson of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, give a briefing on the ongoing dispute over ownership of the messenger app Line at the National Assembly on May 12, 2024. (Yonhap)

Additionally, Yoo Seong-min, a former member of the ruling People Power Party, criticized the situation on Saturday, questioning, “With Japan attempting to seize Line, what values do we even share with them?” and, “As the situation is deteriorating rapidly, shouldn’t President Yoon give his trusted [Prime Minister Fumio] Kishida a call today to protect the rights of our company?”

However, People Power Party spokesperson Ho Jun-seok commented that politicians “should refrain from blindly stoking anti-Japanese sentiments for political gain, among other actions.”

By Lee Woo-yun, staff reporter; Seo Young-ji, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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