The South Korean government’s threat to increase monitoring of social media has led to as many as two million Korean users signing up for a Germany-based messaging app in just two weeks, a blow for local success story KakaoTalk.
The firm behind the “heavily-encrypted, non-commercial” Telegram app, which doesn’t have servers in South Korea, quickly added a Korean version in response to the jump in demand.
KakaoTalk has acknowledged that it has been losing users due to surveillance fears. Daum Communications, the company that created KakaoTalk, said it has stopped complying with monitoring warrants since 7 October, Reuters said. The company also has reduced the length of time it stores data on its servers.
The country’s prosecutors launched a cyber investigation team last month after President Park Geun-hye complained about online rumors that she said had “crossed the line” and were “deepening divisions” in the country, the Korea Herald reported.
The president’s comment is linked to the unprecedented move to investigate a Japanese journalist for allegedly writing a libelous report questioning the president’s whereabouts on the day the Sewol ferry sank, the Herald said.
The government is attempting to reassure the public about online privacy, noting it would only request access to information in special circumstances, such as criminal investigations for murder and human trafficking.
Reuters said a poll of 500 Koreans, by Realmeter last week, found that 43 per cent agreed with Daum’s move to not comply with warrants to monitor specific users. But 30 per cent disagreed, insisting it would be an obstruction of justice.