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Messaging app Telegram launches Korean version to cash in on privacy fears

Messaging app Telegram launches Korean version to cash in on privacy fears

By Sohee Kim

SEOUL (StartName) – Privately owned German messaging app Telegram released a Korean-language version on Tuesday to capitalize on a surge in demand from users wary of local apps such as KakaoTalk after the government said it would boost cyber surveillance.

Telegram, which advertises its app with the tagline “taking back our right to privacy”, does not have any servers in South Korea, where prosecutors last month launched an cyber monitoring campaign after complaints by President Park Geun-hye.

The authorities did not give specific details of the surveillance plan, but it spooked users of the dominant app KakaoTalk, operated by Daum Communications Corp, and triggered a rush to find alternatives.

Market research firm Ranky.com said KakaoTalk had in the last week lost 400,000 users, or about 2 percent, of its 35 million or so customers in South Korea. During the same period, Telegram was downloaded by one million Koreans.

On Tuesday, Daum sought to reassure clients, saying it had not been asked for real-time data screening by the authorities and that KakaoTalk is not under surveillance. It said, however, it would not be able to reject a request from the prosecutors. Last week, the company also said it would take several measures to protect user data.

Before launching its Korean version, Telegram had played up its security features.

Earlier this week, it told South Koreans on its Twitter feed: “Your dialogue records will not be open and secret conversations will not leave any trace on the server. Our official apps guarantee the best security.”

“Telegram thinks that private information and dialogue should be safe from government officials, work supervisors, advertisement firms and etc,” it added.

(Editing by Tony Munroe and Miral Fahmy)

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