중앙데일리

Cell phone texts make talks short and sweet

Feb 20,2007
Mobile service providers were hoping to avoid a communications avalanche over last weekend’s Lunar New Year and the recent Valentine’s Day.
Last year, between 10 and 11 a.m. on Nov. 30, telephone calls and text messages were delayed because of an overload. More than 20 million short text messages were sent to celebrate the first snow of the season; some users were unhappy after learning that their messages were transmitted hours later.
Phones are no longer considered just audio devices. Text messages, also known as SMS, increase in quantity daily, with about 200 million of the soundless memos jumping around the Korean Peninsula from one cellular phone to another every day.
The average Korean sends four text messages a day, and it’s not just the young ― the middle-aged and elderly use text messages as well.
SMS are used in the workplace. Public organizations use SMS to send out nationwide warnings. Politicians use the service for political campaigning.
Nam Joong-soo, president of KT Corp., Korea’s largest fixed-line operator, was traveling from company headquarters in Bundang, Gyeonggi province, to the Seoul office in Gwanghwamun when his cell phone alerted him to an SMS.
It was an emergency report from a senior executives. In response, he sent a group text messages to his employees: “The first 10 people who entered the company in 2004 may have lunch with me tomorrow.” He immediately got replies.
“We even approve important documents through SMS,” Mr. Nam said.
Even public organizations and government offices such as the National Intelligence Service, as well as insurance companies and hospitals, use SMS to send notifications.
Kim Sun-yong, 67, who lives in Haengdang-dong, Seoul, goes to the Hanyang University Hospital regularly to receive treatment and receives appointment reminders via SMS.
The occasional SMS from the National Intelligence Service might ask people to “refrain” from traveling in certain areas overseas.
According to a survey conducted early this month by the Internet employment agency Find Job, 804 office workers between the ages of 20 and 50 said that they send or receive an average of 6.1 SMS daily. That was only slightly less than the number of voice calls made, which was 8.3.
Scholars point out that text messages are a double-edged sword. They can be an inexpensive means of communication, but like so many other new media, their “instant” conversations can erode the use of “correct” language.
But Lee Sung-chae, a linguistic professor at Seoul National University, said that SMS has created new forms of expression.
“As long as it doesn’t mar communication, fun and unique styles of communication should be encouraged,” he said
Yun Young-min, a a professor at Hanyang University, said that the condensed communication of SMS could even increase Korean’s prominance in the digital age, since more can be expressed in Korean with fewer characters than in English.
But the downside of SMS is obvious to anyone who’s had a phone for long enough ― spam. It might also be possible to take them too far. A seventh-grade boy only identified by his surname Kim said that he sent 100 messages to his girlfriend at night to make her go to sleep. The messages were “one sheep,” “two sheep,” “three sheep” and so forth.
What is causing people to send so many text messages?
Park Gil-sung, a professor at Korea University, credits the efficiency of a quick phone memo.
Min Kyung-bae, a professor at Kyunghee Cyber University, claims it’s all about the “economics” of words.
“When you’re talking on the phone, it takes a lot of time to get to the point because you have to ask how the other person is doing and so forth, but text messages just state the point.”
Mr. Min also said, however, that such messages could create misunderstandings.
“People who send messages and don’t receive answers think the other person is rude, but on the other hand the message was sent without asking whether the recipient would accept it or not.”


By Lee Won-ho(JoongAng Ilbo) / Wohn Dong-hee(Staff Writer) / [wohn@joongang.co.kr]


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