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Retailers blast ‘hard-hearted’ KT response over network blackout

Business owners who were affected by an abrupt network blackout urged KT to pay more attention to restoring lines and compensating them for their losses.

Members of the Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise held a press conference in front of a KT corporation building in Ahyeon-dong on Friday and raised their voice against what they call hardhearted feedback.


The Korea Federation of Micro Enterprises held a press conference in front of a KT corporation building in Ahyeon-dong on Friday to complain about the telecommunications giant’s response to a recent fire. (Park Ju-young / The Korea Herald)
The Korea Federation of Micro Enterprises held a press conference in front of a KT corporation building in Ahyeon-dong on Friday to complain about the telecommunications giant’s response to a recent fire. (Park Ju-young / The Korea Herald)


During the press conference, KFME called on KT to offer detailed plans how they would restoration and full compensation for the sales loss to affected retailers. Also, the group urged KT Chairman Hwang Chang-gyu to make a sincere apology and resign from the position.

On Saturday, a fire broke out at a KT building’s basement, causing major network disruptions in western Seoul. As landline phone services, internet services and in-store payment systems provided by KT were paralyzed, the retailers in affected areas said the sales had plunged over the weekend.

KT said that about 96 percent of the damaged mobile network, 99 percent of Internet network and 92 percent of landline phone services had been restored as of Tuesday. However, retailers in the Ahyeon area are still struggling to operate their businesses, as unlike most household customers, their landline connections rely on copper cables that have not yet been repaired. Copper-cable connections in other areas have been restored by linking them to broadband networks, but this is not possible for the Ahyeon area hub, which has been directly damaged by the fire.

KT told The Korea Herald that only 30 percent of the Ahyeon-area copper cable networks had been restored as of Friday morning.


The Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise set up a tent in front of a KT building in Ahyeon-dong to collect damage reports from retailers (Park Ju-young / The Korea Herald)
The Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise set up a tent in front of a KT building in Ahyeon-dong to collect damage reports from retailers (Park Ju-young / The Korea Herald)


Since Tuesday, KFME has been collecting reports of damage cases online. The group also set up a tent near the KT building in Ahyeon-dong on Thursday to gather complaints from the retailers. As of Friday afternoon, more than 150 cases had been reported, according to KFME.

“About 170,000 retailers are estimated to be affected by the network failure,” Choi Seung-jae, chairman of KFME, said during the press conference.

A survey carried out by KFME showed that the sales of the affected stores dropped over 30 to 40 percent on average.

By pointing out that KT’s executives have not released any official statement over the issue yet, Choi urged KT to offer sufficient explanation on the current recovery progress to the business owners.

“We have been trying to communicate with the company several times, but KT still says nothing. At least, KT should tell (the business owners) how long it will take to fully recover the network so that the owners can shut down their stores and wait until the network is normalized,” Choi said.


The Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise set up a tent in front of a KT building in Ahyeon-dong to collect damage reports from retailers (Park Ju-young / The Korea Herald)
The Korea Federation of Micro Enterprise set up a tent in front of a KT building in Ahyeon-dong to collect damage reports from retailers (Park Ju-young / The Korea Herald)


The restaurants’ owners attended the press conference complained that they have been spending money on buying food supplies and hiring staff to maintain the business, but are not sure when the network will be fully normalized.

By Park Ju-young (jupark@heraldcorp.com)
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