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Naver, Kakao engage in fierce payment competition in China, Japan

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By Anna J. Park

Naver Pay and Kakao Pay, the two leading mobile payment service businesses in Korea, are pit against each other in the Chinese and Japanese markets, as their domestic growth rates have somewhat slowed due to market saturation.

Naver Pay announced on Tuesday that its mobile payment service can now be widely utilized in China, by scanning a QR code, at all affiliated stores of Alipay, a leading digital payment service in China.

Naver Pay and Alipay+ logos
Naver Pay and Alipay+ logos

The company said customers can make payments by presenting Naver Pay's QR codes at every store which displays the "AliPay+" logo, including airports, department stores, retail shops and taxis in China. Customers can also make payments by scanning the QR code provided using Naver Pay's in-app camera.

As Alipay+ is one of the official sponsors of the 2023 Hangzhou Asian Games, which will take place from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8, the Chinese digital payment app will be exclusively used at key event locations of the Asian Games venues, such as the athletes' villages. It means Korea's national team athletes, officials and tourists visiting the venue can use Naver Pay, whenever they need to make payments in China.

"Starting with the Hangzhou Asian Games, Naver Pay will further expand its global payment partnerships so that customers can experience Naver Pay's distinctive benefits in more countries," an official from Naver Pay said.

Naver Pay said it is currently preparing to enable its QR payment service at all Alipay+ affiliated shops in Japan by the end of this year.

As Naver Pay has already enabled its payment service at UnionPay merchants in both China and Japan, it is so far the only Korean digital payment service company that has partnered with both UnionPay and Alipay. UnionPay has over 610,000 affiliated shops in Japan and 49 million merchant shops in China.

Kakao Pay CEO Shin Won-keun speaks during a press conference in Beijing, Monday. Courtesy of Kakao Pay
Kakao Pay CEO Shin Won-keun speaks during a press conference in Beijing, Monday. Courtesy of Kakao Pay

Meanwhile, Kakao Pay, which has already been available for making payments at Alipay merchants in China since March, vowed to strengthen its global services to 50 countries from the current 18 countries.

"During the past five months after the mobile payment service launched in March, the number of monthly active users (MAU) of Kakao Pay in China has increased by 108 times, while the payment amount has soared by 1,263 times," Kakao Pay CEO Shin Won-keun said during a press conference in Beijing, Tuesday.

As Alipay is the second largest shareholder of Kakao Pay, the two firms have been discussing cooperation in digital payment in China since 2018, and completed payment integration tests with Alipay across all regions in China in March this year. Kakao Pay plans to further enhance its application services for use globally.

Park Ji-won


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