Call center a target for foul-mouthed abuse

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Call center a target for foul-mouthed abuse

When an operator with the 120 Dasan Call Center, the Seoul city government’s 24-hour call service, picked up the phone one evening in June 2010, a man who sounded drunk abruptly began hurling abuse at the operator.

The operator tried to calm him down and asked what kind of service he needed.

“I don’t need any of your stupid help, this is what I want to do. Don’t you understand?”

The operator and the call center thought it was just a simple prank call from a drunk person, and didn’t expect they would go on to receive 1,650 additional calls from the man over the next two years. The man, who later was identified with his surname Yoo, verbally abused the operators at Dasan Call Center until August last year.

After consulting with the Seoul Metropolitan Government, they decided to report Yoo to prosecutors in September last year.

The 120 Dasan Call Center was officially launched by Seoul in September 2007 to provide a free and convenient telephone service where citizens can ask a team of ready phone operators sitting at computers any questions regarding daily life issues or district office affairs.

While it has helped many people in Korea, it has also become a target for malignant prank callers like Yoo.

The city government said yesterday four citizens, including Yoo and a man surnamed Lee, were summarily indicted by prosecutors with a fine of 4 million won ($3,600).

The city government said Lee also often called the call center while intoxicated and lashed out at operators, even sexually harassing them.

Lee was sentenced to pay 4 million won by a local court and the other three, including Yoo, are waiting for the court’s ruling.

“About 900 citizens have been categorized as prank callers and we receive an average of 30 such calls every day,” Park Gi-yong, a spokesman of the city government, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“We have been aggressively managing these callers since last year in order to prevent our operators from being improperly abused.”

The city government said they have organized a special team composed of six managerial level officials in order to manage such serious prank callers from the second half of last year.

It said that an average of 2,286 prank calls were reported per month in the first half of last year, but the number declined to a total of 1,448 cases per month in the second half, and only an average of 927 cases per month were reported in January and February. The city government said they will go after prank callers after three warnings, including two automated voice messages, if they persist with their abusive language.


By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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