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Korean regulators search Microsoft offices

Antitrust investigators continue probe into whether Windows holds--and abuses--an illegal monopoly position.

Korean trade regulators on Thursday searched the offices of Microsoft's Korean subsidiary as part of a years-long probe into the company's business practices.

The Korean Fair Trade Commission has been investigating whether Microsoft violated antitrust laws by tying its messaging software into its dominant Windows operating system, according to a source familiar with the inquiry. In 2001, Korean messaging rival Daum Communications sparked the investigation by complaining that Microsoft was using its monopoly position to freeze out competitors.

In April of this year, Daum filed a private antitrust suit against Microsoft seeking 10 billion won ($8.6 million).

The investigation comes just as Microsoft has appealed a European Commission ruling that the company abused its monopoly and should be fined and its business practices changed. Earlier this year, Japanese trade officials raided Microsoft offices there, though Microsoft said that probe centered on language in its contracts with computer makers that have since been altered to satisfy critics.

Microsoft confirmed the search and said it is cooperating with Korean investigators.

"On June 10 representatives of the Korean FTC visited Microsoft to collect information," said Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake. "Microsoft legal representatives met with investigators and instructed Microsoft employees to cooperate with the FTC."

Regulators are expected to stay at the company's offices through early next week.

Drake said Microsoft believes it has acted lawfully. "We are committed to upholding the laws of Korea and every country in which we operate."