Seoul – NHN, the operator of South Korea’s top internet portal Naver, announced that its first-quarter earnings rose 17.9 percent on increased revenue from online games. Net income came to 104.3 billion won (US$82.6 million) in the January-March period, compared with 88.4 billion won a year earlier, the company said in a regulatory filing. Compared with the previous quarter, its net profit was also up 5.6 percent. Sales climbed 9.2 percent on-year to 322 billion won and operating income also gained 0.6 percent to 128.3 billion won over the cited period. NHN attributed the surge in earnings to an increase in online games. Market watchers expect NHN to sustain its momentum throughout the year, as internet-savvy Koreans spend more time on its web site to search or play online games, allowing the company to draw more advertisers, reports Yonhap News Agency. The Korean online game industry took off about a decade ago during the Asian financial crisis, the last time the country’s economy was in distress. According to the Games Rating Board, a sub-organization of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports, a total of 351 new game titles were reviewed during the first quarter of the year, the highest three-month total in three years. The increase in content could also bring a growth in exports. Korean online game publishers combined $1 billion in exports last year, more than a 35 percent growth from the previous year.