Kakao Group Founder Leaves Board Amid Backlash


The founder of South Korean FinTech and social media giant Kakao Group has stepped down from the company board following a series of scandals.

As Bloomberg News reported Monday (March 14), Kakao said in an emailed statement that Brian Kim has left the board and will now focus on global business expansion.

Shares of Kakao Corp. climbed as much as 3.5% on the South Korean stock exchange following the announcement, while Kakaobank Corp. shares rose 2.3%.

Kakoa’s shares fell in January after reports emerged that law enforcement was looking into allegations that Kim had evaded a 886 billion won ($743 million) tax in 2014 when the company merged with Daum Communications. Kakao has called these charges “groundless,” and notes the merger had been approved by shareholders.

Read more: Shares of Korea’s Kakao Jump After Three Execs Quit

Regulators have also accused Kakao of building a monopoly, with its market dominance being criticized for endangering mom-and-pop stores.

In addition, the public has criticized a group of the company’s executives for selling shares in the company following KakaoPay’s $1.3 billion initial public offering.

Those executives — Chief Executive Officer Alex Ryu, Chief Financial Officer Kijoo Chang and Chief Business Officer Jin Lee — all announced their plans to resign in January. Ryu had been scheduled to step down this month, but the departures of Chang and Lee, which immediately followed the announcement, came as a surprise.

See also: Shares of S.Korea’s Kakao Pay Soar Over 150% on First Day of Trading

Bloomberg noted that Kim’s departure is a black mark on the storied career of an entrepreneur who at one point was South Korea’s richest person, surpassing Samsung Group heir Jay Y. Lee. Three of Kakao group’s units — Kakao Games Corp., KakaoBank Corp. and Kakao Pay Corp — all went public in under two years, the last of which was one of 2021’s biggest IPOs.

The group is now preparing to take its ride-hailing service provider Kakao Mobility public as well.