German-based messaging app Telegram, which has emerged as a cyber asylum for Koreans, launched an official Korean app to target the Korean market.
After recruiting English-Korean translators on Oct. 2, Telegram posted a FAQ page in Korean, announcing its entry into the Korean market with the release of its official Korean app on Oct. 7.
Telegram's rapid response seems to be part of its strategy for retaining Korean users as loyal customers, the number of which has been rapidly increasing since the controversy surrounding government censorship of the nation's top messaging app KakaoTalk. In other words, the move is aimed at enjoying increased demand in Korea based on its huge popularity with cyber asylum seekers.
Previously, there was only an unofficial open-source version used by Koreans, and there were not many active users. These factors can be interpreted as the other two reasons for the earlier release of its official Korean version.
"More than 1.5 million Koreans were registered as users last week. Currently, 50 million people around the globe are using Telegram each month. Korea is the country that leads this growth," said Markus Ra from Telegram’s support team in an E-mail interview with Yonhap News Agency on Oct. 7.
In the past, the local IT industry kept a close eye on the cyber asylum phenomenon, but believed that this phenomenon was probably temporary. However, the industry is alerted by the fact that the number of downloads for the German messaging app keeps snowballing. The launch of the official Korean service has also put the industry on edge.
There is growing concern about the reoccurrence of the phenomenon where a large number of local netizens migrated from local web portals to Google's G-mail after the PD Notebook incident in 2009.
Year-round online monitoring is targeted at not only KakaoTalk, but also other local Internet service providers. For example, Naver's email service NaverMail and SK Communication's messaging app NateOn could be censored at any time.
Nevertheless, Kakao, the company behind KakaoTalk, is especially nervous about the censorship. Following suspicions over the government's confiscation of Labor Party Deputy Leader Jung Jin-woo's KakaoTalk chats, the management of Daum Kakao did not clearly express its position about controversy over government surveillance at a recent press event. As a result, KakaoTalk was singled out as the epicenter of cyber censorship.
Daum Kakao became embroiled in the controversy surrounding government surveillance immediately after its merger. The company is said to be in crisis managementmode at the moment. In particular, its team in charge of security technology is reportedly working to establish security measures that can reduce the controversy surrounding government surveillance.