Naver’s union calls for action from government over possible Japanese buyout of Line

Posted on : 2024-05-14 16:57 KST Modified on : 2024-05-14 16:57 KST
Organized workers voiced concerns about tech being purloined and possible job insecurity if SoftBank does take control of the messenger service
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)

Employees at Naver and Line affiliates in Korea are demanding that the company not sell its stake in the messenger’s operator and are calling for the government to put its foot down with Japan.
“Protecting Line-affiliated employees and the technology and skills they accumulated should be the top priority,” Naver’s labor union wrote in a statement released Monday. “As such, the best way to protect them is to not sell Naver’s stake. We demand proactive and decisive action from the government to ensure that South Korean workers do not face unfair treatment.”
The union characterized SoftBank’s plan to increase its stake in order to counter security breaches as “irrational and unjust,” while voicing “concern that South Korean companies will be treated unfairly abroad, have technology stolen from them, and see Korean employees lose their jobs.” 

“We strongly urge the government to take decisive action to speak out against unjust demands,” the workers wrote. 
The union is concerned that a possible change in ownership brought by the change in stakes could put employees, including developers at Line-related companies, at risk of job insecurity. “If even a part of the 50% stake is transferred to SoftBank, it could lead to a situation where Line’s 2,500 South Korean workers, who are part of SoftBank’s subsidiaries, may face job insecurity,” the union said.
Currently, the union has identified about 2,500 workers involved in Line’s operations across eight affiliates. The union emphasized that employees who, despite being wary about Naver’s low involvement in LY Corp.’s management when the joint venture was formed with SoftBank in 2021, trusted their management when they said it was all part of a strategy for global expansion cannot be allowed to become “casualties of managerial decisions.”
The Korean tech firm’s labor union released the statement after holding an online meeting on Friday to gather opinions from employees of Line-related companies in Korea, such as Line Plus. 

“More than 300 employees of Line affiliates attended the meeting on Friday. Most focused on developing Line for Naver, and had not been concerned about their affiliation,” said Lee Soo-woon, the secretary general of the union, when speaking to the Hankyoreh over the phone.
“Even if the Japanese company acquires the company’s technical staff as it is, it will be up to the Japanese company to decide whether to keep them on the payroll after they finish transferring technology in the following few years,” he went on to worry.

By Jung Yu-gyung, staff reporter

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