Naver's web portal (123rf)
South Korean internet giant Naver was reportedly suffering service malfunctions in major regions in China on Wednesday, fueling speculation that the Chinese authorities might be limiting people's access to the neighboring country’s dominant search engine.
“We have confirmed that connection to our services, including using email and the search function, is not properly working there. But it is hard to tell for now whether China is intentionally blocking access or if it is just a technical glitch,” a Naver official told The Korea Herald.
The official added its Chinese operation, together with Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, is inspecting the situation.
Some local media reported in recent days saying that access to Naver is being blocked across China. Koreans living in China also said that the service cannot be accessed or only loads very slowly since Sunday, prompting them to download a virtual private network service to gain access to it.
On Wednesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin said, "We'll talk closely with China" regarding the ongoing service malfunctions.
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Tuesday that the ministry is “aware of the matter,” although she declined to confirm whether the issue was discussed during working-level talks between Korea and China held in Seoul on Sunday.
Meanwhile, China claims it is not aware of the situation. Beijing foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said on the same day that there is “no concrete information” and advised reporters to forward questions to the relevant Chinese authorities.
Some Naver services, such as Naver Cafe and blogs, have been blocked in China since October 2018, but its search and email functions could still be used. Daum, a web portal under Kakao, has been blocked in China since January 2019.
Speculation has emerged that the deteriorating relationship between Korea and China may have affected the matter.
The suspension followed the Group of Seven summit, which ran between Friday and Sunday. Member countries including the US, Japan, Germany and the UK called on China to do more to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine.
President Yoon Suk Yeol attended the meeting as Korea was invited as an observer country.
After the news came out, shares of Naver lost 4.25 percent to close at 203,000 won ($154.20) on Wednesday.
By Jie Ye-eun (email@example.com)