By Cho Mu-hyun
Software entrepreneur-turned-politician Ahn Cheol-soo has chosen Daum over the more popular Naver to host a promotional blog for his bid to become Korea’s next president.
The choice is raising eyebrows because NHN’s search engine is the more obvious choice as it far surpasses competitors, including Daum, in terms of online traffic. Naver controls more than 70 percent of the market share, according to industry officials as of September.
The presidential candidate opened his official campaign blog on the runner-up search engine provider’s blog service Tistory, Tuesday, which will be used in tandem with his Facebook page.
There is widespread speculation of a possible rift between NHN and Ahn’ camp due to a recent incident involving the Web portal’s word association search engine that could have potentially damaged their campaign.
Naver’s search engine, which provides a continuously updated ranking for the most searched words, phrases or topics and displays them beneath the search tool bar, has caused controversy because of certain word associations it has provided.
“Ahn Cheol-soo room salon (Korean hostess bar)” topped the ranking table in mid-August, prompting NHN to be criticized for not filtering adult content. But the biggest concern was over potential damage to the candidate’s “clean” image. Ahn maintains that he didn’t visit a hostess bar as the phrase suggests and said he was concerned of false and slanderous rumors spreading through the Internet.
NHN CEO Kim Sang-hun issued an apology for the occurrence and vowed to filter inappropriate words. He personally attended an explanatory press conference and announced that the company will have an external party routinely review its search word service. But the issue hasn’t gone away.
Ahn’s friendship with Daum’ founder Lee Jae-woong is also considered another reason for his selecting the portal for his blog. Lee is a vocal supporter of the founder of computer virus vaccine maker AhnLab’s bid. The two are first generation information technology venture capitalists that became successful in the 1990s.