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South Korea digital lenders challenge nation's traditional giants

Upstart Kakao Bank hopes to vault to No. 3 in market value after IPO next month

Major South Korean lenders Kookmin Bank, logo seen at left, and Shinhan Bank, right, are responding to the rise of digital rival Kakao Bank, center. (Photo by Yuki Kohara)

SEOUL -- When Kakao Bank opened its digital doors in 2017, few expected that South Korea's first online lender would stand shoulder to shoulder with the country's traditional financial giants in just four years.

But the subsidiary of the country's second-largest internet company Kakao filed an initial public offering with the financial regulator on June 28, seeking to raise up to 2.6 trillion won ($2.3 billion) on the benchmark Kospi stock market in August.

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