South Korean companies Naver Corp., a prominent portal operator, and SK Telecom, a leading wireless carrier, are locked in a heated dispute over the recruitment of AI professionals.
In a recent development, Naver Cloud, the cloud computing solutions division of Naver, has officially requested SK Telecom to halt the recruitment of its AI workforce. The request, supported by compelling evidence, was delivered via a legal representative. Naver Cloud, responsible for overseeing Naver’s AI operations, formally served notice to SK Telecom through legal channels on June 15.
Jeong Seok-Geun, the Chief Strategy Officer of Naver Cloud and five senior executives have tendered their resignations to join SK Telecom. This development comes after Jeong played a pivotal role in successfully developing and managing Naver’s prominent AI platform, HyperCLOVA, throughout 2021. Chung’s significant contributions to advancing Naver’s language model, HyperCLOVA, were widely recognized.
In a letter addressing the situation, it was expressed that Naver could not tolerate the continuous recruitment of its key personnel by SK Telecom, including former Naver CLOVA CEO Chung Suk-Geun, who assumed the position of CEO at SK Telecom Americas, the company’s U.S. subsidiary.
“Five leadership-level employees who worked with Chung have resigned. Some of them are veteran employees with more than 15 years of experience. We have not accepted their resignations. When we asked them why they resigned, they said they wanted to move to SK Telecom’s AI company.” The Naver Cloud official highlighted concerns that SK Telecom’s recruitment practices might potentially violate the Unfair Competition Prevention and Trade Secret Protection Act.
“We genuinely hope for a constructive resolution to this matter,” emphasized the spokesperson. “We kindly request that SK Telecom provides us with a clear response regarding this issue.”
In response to the accusations, a spokesperson from SK Telecom acknowledged the receipt of content certification from Naver Cloud but emphasized that there appears to be a misunderstanding between the two parties. “We are trying to solve it through communication,” he said.