​Google Denies Korean Tax Evasion Allegation

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Google has denied allegations from Lee Hae-jin, founder of Naver, South Korea's largest search engine, that it doesn't pay proper taxes in the country.

Google, in a rare statement, strongly denied the allegation made by Lee at a National Assembly inspection meeting earlier this week, saying it is paying taxes properly in Korea and is "abiding by local tax laws and treaties".

Lee -- who was defending Naver over user criticism for manipulating its news feed -- also alleged that Google hired little compared to the money they made in the country, and that it was skirting taxes by having servers abroad when traffic was comparatively high.

Lee also said there is discrimination against local companies towards foreign companies that have not been formerly inspected. Google looked "relatively clean" on news abuse because it has a low web search share in Korea, Lee added.

Google has said that conversely, there are hundreds of employees working at its Korean office, including its Seoul Campus for startups. It said it is not affected by "politics or money" and that its search results are 100 percent algorithm.

It also said that Google puts users first in all countries, including Korea, and is contributing to Korea's society and economy. It added that it is providing partners opportunities to go abroad, while providing a platform for startups and creators to go global.

However, John Lee, general manager of Google Korea, who was also at the inspection meeting, said he didn't know the company's revenue in the country when questioned by MPs.

Naver, which also owns the popular global chat app Line, dominates the local web search share. Google, despite falling behind in search, owns services like YouTube -- one of the most used mobile apps in the country.

The US search giant also uses the country as a test bed; its go-playing AI AlphaGo was matched against champion Lee Se-dol there last year.


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