The Korea Herald

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People turn to broadcaster alerts

No alerts issued by radio as Interior Ministry did not send audio guidance

By Lee Si-jin

Published : May 31, 2023 - 15:59

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Text alerts have become a dominant channel of communication for emergencies in South Korea.

Though some might have become tired of messages about someone going missing or the latest COVID-19 figures, the system has led many people to pay more attention to public safety issues.

But, when internet servers temporarily crash due to a sudden surge of traffic in a crisis situation, paralyzing data and other internet-related services when they are most needed, people turn to the emergency broadcasts on terrestrial broadcast networks for additional information.

On Wednesday morning, when Naver, the country's largest portal, temporarily shutdown after the Seoul Metropolitan Government sent out an emergency text message telling people to prepare to take shelter, television and radio proved relatively reliable.

Public broadcaster KBS, the country's major emergency alert channel which was criticized for inadequate response to various emergency situations, for example Gangwon forest fire in 2019, Busan flood in 2020 and the late air raid alarm in 2022, is seen as having done its part in the latest emergency situation.

“The news was sent out at 6:30 a.m. It was released multiple times with big-sized subtitles and news tickers both in Korean and English," a KBS official told The Korea Herald on Wednesday.

The official added that detailed information regarding the ongoing situation would have been updated with breaking news if Seoul City's message had not been rescinded as a false alarm.

However, the emergency alert was not broadcast on radio as the Ministry of Interior and Safety, which is responsible for the audio alerts, did not send any audio guidance to radio broadcasters, the KBS official said.

SBS, among many other terrestrial broadcasters and cable channels, also said that the company took a similar procedure Wednesday morning.

“We follow the manuals shared by Korea Communications Commission with regards to disaster alert. SBS delivered the alert via television subtitles. It was serviced in Korean and English,” an SBS official said.

More detailed information about disaster alerts and safety guidelines are available at eng.safekorea.go.kr, the official website of National Disaster and Safety Portal.