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LEAD: S. Korea's OhmyNews to launch Japan edition with Softbank+
[February 22, 2006]

LEAD: S. Korea's OhmyNews to launch Japan edition with Softbank+

(Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TOKYO, Feb. 22_(Kyodo) _ (EDS: UPDATING WITH ANNOUNCEMENT, CHANGING DATELINE)

Softbank Corp. said Wednesday it will contribute 693 million yen to form a joint venture with South Korea's OhmyNews Co. in Tokyo in March in an effort to publish a Japanese edition of the South Korean online newspaper.

Softbank will also purchase 610 million yen worth of new shares to be issued by OhmyNews through a third-party allocation to take a 12.95 percent interest in the firm.

"We hope to expand our online news service on a global basis in the future," Masayoshi Son, president of the Japanese Internet and financial services firm, told reporters.

The joint venture, called OhmyNews International, will be owned 70 percent by the South Korean company with the remainder held by Softbank.

The Japanese venture will enlist locally about 40,000 people, about the same as the number working for the South Korean paper, to contribute stories to the Japanese edition of the online newspaper OhmyNews as registered writers.

Son also expressed confidence about the reliability of the new online news service, which will carry bylines. "Much information posted on online bulletin boards lacks credibility because it is anonymous," the Softbank chief claimed.

News of the joint venture was announced the same day in South Korea.

Oh Yeon Ho, founder of the South Korean news publisher, said that although the company will rely on funding from Softbank, it will continue to abide by its independent journalistic principles and maintain its system of having stories contributed by citizen writers.

The original online newspaper OhmyNews was founded in 2000 and has become popular because of special features and scoops written by its staff writers as well as stories written by registered amateur reporters.

The paper is known for its iconoclastic style that challenges the established media and reportedly played a critical role in the election of President Roh Moo Hyun in 2002.

It gets 500,000 to 1 million visits a day and is said to be as influential as South Korea's major TV stations and newspapers.

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