[Desk Column] SKT’s ‘5.6 million’ compensation plight

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 23, 2014 - 20:48
  • Updated : Mar 23, 2014 - 20:48
It was Thursday night, and I was fit to be tied.

I had to reach my mother, who was babysitting my son, but for some reason, the call wouldn’t go through. I didn’t even get the customary, “We’re sorry, but the customer you are trying to reach is not available. Please try again.” Instead, I got nothing. No dial tone, nothing.

I tried my father, then my sister, but again, nothing.

Then a colleague sent me a Kakao Talk message, saying that SK Telecom had suddenly gone out of service, and asking if he should write a story.

“Yes, by all means,” I replied, thinking of the last hour I had spent trying to reach my parents, who are not avid fans of mobile messenger services.

It turned out I was one of the 5.6 million people who had experienced the “network blackout” with SK Telecom, the nation’s No. 1 telecom company.

I am quite certain that my predicament was just a trifle compared to what some had to go through, such as people involved in an accident or those who depend on their phones to make a living, such as quick-service ajusshis, call taxi drivers and mom-and-pop diners whose main source of income comes from deliveries.

SK Telecom has said it will compensate its users, but it remains unclear how exactly it will calculate, and furthermore, how it will pay for the psychological damage suffered by the woman who was unable to talk to her mother one last time before she passed away, and the man who was trying to persuade his wife not to leave with a final phone call that took all of his courage to make.

All this literally went down the line on the day SK Telecom went out of service for six hours ― a record in Korea’s telecom history.

Sad to say, it’s not even the first time. Just last week, the company had Internet problems that left just as many people helpless.

So what’s wrong at SK?

Technically, there was a glitch with one piece of equipment the company was using. But now that it turns out that, unlike rivals KT Corp. and LG Uplus, SK Telecom acquires the equipment from a single vendor, people see the nagging signs of yet another scandal.

Already, SK’s website is being flooded with comments and criticism from angry netizens who are betting their bottom dollar that the vendor had some sort of ties with the SK owners’ family.

If that really is the case, SK ― already on the national blacklist for wrongdoings by its top man and owner ― will have a lot of explaining to do.

I suggest coming out and saying who the vendor is and whether there were any irregularities involved, if only to dispel the mounting suspicions.

By Kim Ji-hyun (