Searching for the truth at Google Korea

Google is taking a dose of bitter medicine from local media. Daily newspapers are suggesting that Google’s new search service is copying Naver and that Google Korea is trying to steal information about local portals through interviews with potential candidates.

Korea’s wire service agency, Yonhap, as well as a number of daily and Internet newspapers, said that Google’s new Universal Search service is almost identical to Naver’s “integrated search” service, which was launched in August of 2000. They also accused Google of imitating Naver with its “Daily List of 100 Fastest-Gaining Queries.” Naver, run by the local firm NHN Corp., is currently the largest Internet portal in Korea, in terms of revenue and page views.

Google Korea retorted that its Universal Search service is part of a “natural trend” and that because Korean companies have cutting-edge products, Google’s service may seem to be similar in certain aspects.

Local media are also accusing Google of trying to convert researchers into industrial spies. The Financial News quoted two employees, both of whom worked for local Internet companies. One employee, who declined to be identified, said that in an interview for Google Korea’s research and development center, the interviewers asked about the details of the program the employee was working on. Another worker said that Google Korea interviewers asked about the problems of search software as well as other questions on key technology. The interviews took seven hours, the worker said. Both sources said that, after the interviews, they felt like industrial spies.
Google’s interviewers also allegedly told applicants that if they submitted the names of the five best developers in their company, that would give them an advantage in recruitment.

As of last week, Google Korea had appointed about 20 developers. When Google Vice President Alan Eustace was in Seoul last October to establish the company’s Korean R&D center, he said that the company would employ about 150 people for now.
An employee at a portal service firm who declined to be identified said, “The reason Google has come to Korea and is increasing investment here is to imitate local services and pilfer key human resources.” Google Korea, however, said that its interviews were purely for judging applicants’ abilities.

On a separate note, a Google insider, who wished to remain unnamed, complained that the company is worried about reports it claims are untrue.
“Some of the media reports about Google Korea contained false information, which can be a disadvantage to us, especially since Google is a listed company,” the source said, declining to go into detail about which reports were false.

By Wohn Dong-hee for JoongAng Daily


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