South Korea’s largest online portal has securely transferred all its data in Hong Kong’s backup centre to Singapore earlier in July. This was announced in a statement released by Naver on Tuesday (21 Jul).
“Data in Hong Kong was deleted earlier this month and servers there were reformatted,” it continued.
However, the statement does not specifically attribute the move to the new security law effected on 30 June.
A Naver public relations official, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, told This Week in Asia that the relocation was due to concerns that Chinese authorities could use the legislation to access users’ information.
He added though that it was not “entirely” due to this, but for other technical reasons as well.
Under this new law, the police do not need court orders to instruct internet users or “relevant service providers”, such as social-media platforms and firms, to cooperate with investigations.
This includes overarching jurisdiction to delete or restrict access to online content determined to endanger national security.
The law also grants China the authority to prosecute any acts of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion related to Hong Kong that was committed by non-residents. This is stated under Article 38 of the law.
It covers acts committed outside of Hong Kong as well.
Lawmaker Kim Young-bae from South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party told parliament on Monday (20 Jul) that Naver had saved South Korean users’ sensitive personal information on its servers in Hong Kong.
He also raised concerns if such information could be leaked abroad.
However, this has been refuted by Naver in its statement which said there had been no leaks from the Hong Kong data centre.
“There is no possibility of a third party looking into personal data under any circumstances as they are strictly coded beyond what is required under domestic laws and regulations,” the company said.
It is the first South Korean company reported to have made changes to its Hong Kong operations following the passing of the law.
This has not been the only significant business move taken by Naver.
According to the Korean Economic Daily, it was reported on Monday (20 Jul) that Naver will soon invest 100 billion won (S$115.7 million) in one of the four largest entertainment organisations in South Korea – SM Entertainment.
SM Entertainment is the managing label behind Korean pop acts such as EXO and Girls’ Generation.
They are reportedly in the process of working out a deal that will secure Naver a stake in the company.
It would make them the second largest shareholder in SM Entertainment with 12.64 per cent of shares.
Lee Soo Man, founder of the entertainment giant, holds the most shares at 18.73 per cent.
Naver’s recent business venture is allegedly due to the loss of BTS, one of the world’s biggest music artist.
In the past, the South Korean male group used to host its content on Naver’s V Live, a live video streaming service.
However, ever since Big Hit Labels, managing label of BTS, developed its own platform, Weverse, the group’s content has gradually moved away from V Live.
Weverse is a mobile app and web platform for multimedia content and artist-to-fan communications.
Big Hit Labels is another one of the four largest entertainment organisations in South Korea.
In mid-June, BTS held a live virtual concert, Bang Bang Con: The Live, on Weverse instead of V Live. It generated 25 billion won (S$28.9 million) in revenue through the sale of 756,000 tickets in 107 countries.
There is speculation that Naver is seeking to build a stable relationship with another big entertainment company following this transition.