• Kyodo, Staff Report

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Finance Ministry officials are investigating Line Corp. over an item sold in an online game, sources said Wednesday. The officials want to determine whether it is equivalent to a virtual currency, which requires security deposits under law.

Line is the provider of one of the world’s most popular smartphone messaging apps. The item in question is known as a Coin. It secures access to game add-ons and can be used to view manga and movies.

The Kanto Local Finance Bureau began checking the Tokyo-based unit of South Korean Internet giant Naver Corp. in January over an item sold in its Line Pop puzzle game service, launched in 2012, the sources said.

The officials are assessing whether purchases of the item serve as an advance-payment currency regulated under the Payment Services Act.

The law requires payment service providers to deposit an amount of money equal to half the value of the virtual currency held by users with local bureaus of the Justice Ministry to protect consumers in the event of bankruptcy.

Line said in a statement on its website Wednesday that it deemed the game not subject to regulation, adding that the latest audit was only a routine check carried out by the bureau every few years.

Established in 2000, the company provides game, music distribution and settlement services, while its mainstay business is a messaging app that has about 215 million users worldwide.

The company recently announced a plan to start a traditional mobile phone service. It is also considering going public in Japan and the United States.

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