KakaoTalk rejects message scheduling feature

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KakaoTalk rejects message scheduling feature

Kakao, operator of the KakaoTalk messaging app, on Monday refused a government request to add a feature that lets users schedule messages. The Ministry of Employment and Labor believes the feature could prevent work-related discussions after working hours and contribute to improving work-life balance.

“We welcome the social debate on the right not to be connected after office hours but we don’t consider it a matter to be separately negotiated between the Labor Ministry and a private company,” said Kakao in a statement. “We do not have a plan to discuss the issue with the ministry further at this moment.”

With messenger apps - used by over 90 percent of smartphone owners in Korea - being utilized as an everyday communication tool, complaints have mounted among office workers - lower-level employees in particular - that their right to rest after work is infringed as their bosses do not stop sending work-related messages. The issue developed into a social controversy over work-life balance and generational conflict.

A recent survey by job information portal Job Korea of 717 office workers showed 85.5 percent of them had received work-related KakaoTalk messages after office hours and 68.5 percent of the messages were from their bosses. But over six out of 10 survey respondents were skeptical about the plausibility of banning the messenger’s use.

Officials from the Ministry of Employment Labor in August visited Kakao’s office in Pangyo, Gyeonggi to propose the government and Kakao work together to tackle the problem. The ministry also asked Kakao to add a scheduled message feature.

Seoul Metropolitan Government was quick to implement a measure on Sept. 19 that prohibits any post-working hour orders via any means, including KakaoTalk messages, among city government employees.

A lawmaker with the opposition People’s Party on Sept. 24 went so far as to announce they would propose a bill to make it mandatory to ban the exchange of KakaoTalk messages after work.

Kakao CEO Rim Ji-hoon made it clear the company has no plan to cater to the government’s demand in a meeting with reporters last month, however.

“There are many other communication tools such as text messages, emails, phone calls and other messenger apps,” he said. “It’s not a matter of adding a feature on KakaoTalk or not, but the way overall organizations operate.”

He added that the bill to entirely ban KakaoTalk during non-office hours is tantamount to barring the use of Google, Facebook and Instagram in the United States.

The Labor Ministry has now asked the state-run Korea Labor Institute to look into related policy overseas.

BY SEO JI-EUN [seo.jieun@joongang.co.kr]
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