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Overture Makes Official S. Korea Debut - InternetNews.
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Overture Makes Official S. Korea Debut

Pay-for-performance search player Overture Services officially opened the doors to its South Korean office on Tuesday, having already sewn up 92 percent of the market.

Overture suffered some setbacks in the United States caused by Google's ascendance, and speculation over the future plans of partners Yahoo! and MSN. Pasadena, Calif.-based Overture has increasingly pegged its hopes on international expansion. South Korea, where it has deals with Daum Communications, MSN Korea, HanaroDream and Dreamwiz, is one of the markets on which it has focused a great deal of attention, because of a swiftly-growing Internet user population.

South Korea's online population numbered around 16.7 million in 2002, according to Gartner Dataquest. Overture cites a South Korean government figure of 26 million users.

"South Korea is the next logical step in Overture's Asian expansion strategy," said Johannes Larcher, general manager, Overture International. "Having secured a solid foothold in Japan, the launch of Overture in South Korea, with its growing economy and high levels of broadband penetration, further solidifies our global market leadership."

To set up operations in South Korea, Overture established a wholly owned subsidiary, Overture Korea CH, based in Seoul. It employs over 40 people. Functions handled by the office include marketing, sales, customer support and editorial duties.

Overture's biggest local partner, Daum Communications, is seeing good results from its online advertising businesses. According to a Korea Herald report, today the company announced revenues more than doubled in the first quarter, compared to the same period a year ago, thanks to robust online ad sales.

Following the South Korean launch, Overture plans wide expansion of its search services over the rest of the year. The company expects to grow into Italy in the second quarter, followed by Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland and Scandinavia by the end of 2003. Overture currently has operations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan.

The company's ambitions also include growing into other forms of search, going beyond its bread-and-butter pay-for-placement search products to better compete with rival Google. Yesterday, Overture closed its acquisition of the Web search unit of Fast Search and Transfer. It also has an agreement in place to acquire the AltaVista Company.

Overture's main rival in international expansion is Google, which has been focusing efforts on foreign shores and, in fact, has a deal to provide algorithmic search to Overture's key partner in Korea, Daum Communications. Many of Google's partnership agreements thus far involve Web search only, but efforts to expand its sponsored links business have borne fruit, especially in the United States, Japan and Europe.