China blocks access to chat services out of Korea

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China blocks access to chat services out of Korea

Access to Korea’s mobile messengers KakaoTalk, Line and MyPeople was blocked in China ahead of the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Korea yesterday.

According to the industry and local residents in China, access to the Korean mobile messengers such as KakaoTalk stopped working Tuesday, including their PC versions and websites. Xi arrived yesterday for a two-day visit to Seoul.

KakaoTalk warned users in Korea yesterday that some of its services weren’t working properly in China, although text messaging and image sending were.

Linux Lab, a virtual private server provider in China, said although the cause has not yet been confirmed, the so-called Great Firewall of China seemed to be blocking the servers of KakaoTalk and other Korean mobile messengers.

Virtual private servers are ways of getting around the government’s blocks.

The kind of negative publicity China might have feared coming from Xi’s Seoul trip was not obvious.

Linux Lab CEO Bae Cheol-su told the Korea JoongAng Daily that the Chinese government heightens Internet censorship ahead of important occasions.

“There was a similar case before June 4, the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident, when the Chinese government strengthened its Internet censorship to the highest level and the outbound international network speed dropped sharply,” said Bae.

“For this state visit, I believe, the government blocked any negative news about the president spreading through those mobile messengers.

“When Xi Jinping visited the United States last time, some U.S. media reported negative news about the president and China,” he said, “and the Chinese government blocked access to online news from the Internet.”

New subscriptions, adding friends, using emoticons, changing profiles and reading notices were not possible on the Korean messengers in China yesterday.

“We have received calls from Korean residents in China asking what was the problem with the mobile messenger KakaoTalk,” said a Linux Lab dealer in China. “Even though we cannot say what exactly happened, we assume that the Chinese government blocked the server for security issues related to President Xi’s visit.”

The mobile messenger companies denied speculation that they were ordered by the Chinese government to stop the services and complied.

“It is not true that we shut down the server deliberately on a request,” said a spokesman for KakaoTalk. “We are currently trying to determine the cause of the problem and the messaging function has been restored.”

Subscribers in China can use the messengers through virtual private servers (VPS), which mimics a dedicated server within a shared hosting environment, to get on Google and Facebook.

BY kim jung-yoon [kjy@joongang.co.kr]

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