Koreans Deleting Popular KakaoTalk Chat App to Escape Spam

Approximately 38 million people in Korea use the popular mobile instant messaging application KakaoTalk to talk with friends and family daily. As KakaoTalk widens its business scope from Kakao Music to Kakao game, it has been estimated that the number of users will hit 1 billion in 2015. However, the number of cyber crimes targeting KakaoTalk has also increased with the number of users. Some Korean users have started to delete KakaoTalk due to an invasion of privacy and a large amount of spam while others think they are overreacting.

Article from Money Today:

Mom, Friends, and others are deleting KakaoTalk. What’s the reason? Mobile Messenger Spam has been increasing. Majority of spam is ‘gambling adverts.’

A kakao message from a stranger. If people click the link in the message, a malignant program is downloaded automatically. This is called mobile smishing.

A kakao message from a stranger. If people click the link in the message, a malignant program is downloaded automatically. This is called mobile smishing.

A worker Y(34, female) has recently deleted ‘KakaoTalk’, a mobile messenger application. At first it was awkward for her because she has a habit of regularly checking Kakao, however she is getting used to it as time goes by. She feels liberated from the ‘katok’ sound in the early dawn and the late evening. A game invitation alarm made her upset but she couldn’t block that person, especially if he was someone at work. Now she is happy because she’s not bothered by all the alarms from department store and open market adverts every Friday morning.

◇ Mobile messenger.. Are game invitations and notices also regarded as spam?

‘Spam’ is still a nuisance on a mobile phone. Mobile companies have adopted a basic spam blocking system, and users also download additional apps to block spam, but people still get over 3-4 messages a day. Spam via mobile messengers has become especially aggressive. Spam is an ambiguous term that’s difficult to define. However, information offered unilaterally without a user’s consent, including adverts etc can be regarded as spam.

KakaoTalk, one of the most popular mobile messengers, is easily exposed to spam. Many people have received spam from strangers or a game invitation from their friends. All this can happen because KakaoTalk’s ‘Add friends automatically function’ adds all the people saved in the phone as Kakao friends. A game invitation is a chance to get items if a person enjoys playing a mobile game. However, if a person isn’t interested in games at all, the message is just spam.

When a new game comes out or is getting popular, people start being bombarded with game invitations. To block an anonymous game invitation, people can change the game message setting to ‘receive only from friends.’ As complaints have flooded in, the setting has recently been changed again to ‘one message per month, per game’ or ‘limit to 20 game invites a day.’ This has helped reduce the number of game invitations, but Kakao users who have thousands of friends still feel it is a burden. There’s a solution– people can ‘block’ a game invitation. However, the block setting only works for one game, and the blocked person can invite anyone to another game.

The situation is the same in a normal message. People blocked as spam can still message you and spam you with different accounts(numbers). When people get spam like weekly event adverts from department stores or other companies, the only way to deal with them is to block them one by one.

Thus, there are many cases where people completely delete their mobile messenger app. Mr. Choi (a worker, 40 years old) said “It was so stressful to hear unnecessary alarms. Now I feel relaxed after deleting my messenger app. When I really need to use the app, I download, use it, and delete it. I don’t normally use it.”

◇ About 98 million spam messages have been reported through July and image spam that isn’t filtered by an anti-spam app has increased.

Compared to this, the number of spam reports have been decreasing annually. In 2010, there were 70 million reports, 32 million reports in 2012, and 21 million reports in 2013. This year the number is expected to be similar to last year or slightly lower. By July, about 9.8 million spam messages have been reported. The majority of spam consists of gambling adverts (4.3 million), followed by loan, chauffeur service, joining phone contracts, and adult adverts.

Heyong-woo Choo, the team leader of spam action at KISA(the Korea Internet Security Agency), said “Ever since mobile carriers allowed for infinite messaging, a lot more spam has been sent through mobile phones rather than through computers. If there are 200-300 reports of messages from one number, we quickly block the number or investigate .”

Image spams in particular has been increasing because a spam block function doesn’t limit image files. This is why an advert version of spam written ‘Sign up for fast internet and get 500,000 won’ has drastically increased. For this reason, mobile carriers and KISA have been developing a system that is able to block image spams. The system is expected to be adopted from early next year.

◇ ‘Google Calendar Spam’ that is synchronised with Smart phone is brimming.

Spam using Google calendar is also a problem. So called ‘Google calendar spam’ is based on ‘Schedule sharing via email.’ Spammer(a spam sender) adds a schedule on a particular date and time, sends an email invitation to Google users randomly, and then that schedule is automatically added to their Google calendars.

The problem is that a calendar app in a smartphone is synchronised with Google calendar, which means the schedule in Google calendar is automatically saved to their smartphones. For Samsung Galaxy phones, calendar apps like S planner can be also synchronised with Google calendar. If smartphone users set an alarm for the schedule, their alarm will go off for these spam calendar messages as well. It abuses the sharing function among friends. The content of spam messages vary from adult adverts and gambling to loan adverts.

Comments from Naver:


Though I’m use Kakaotalk, I don’t get any messages..


ke ke, how much did they get from mobile carriers?


There is message smishing and phone smishing. Should we stop using all messages and taking all calls? ke ke, this is bullshit.


‘My Love From Another Star(Korean drama)’ advertised Line(another messenger app) a lot; however ‘Kakaotalk dog’ was a big hit.(In the drama, a male character became famous because his appearance was similar to that of a dog character in kakaotalk). Line is working hard to be popular..


Isn’t it annoying to receive spam email? Why don’t you delete your email account as well then?


People can’t delete KakaoTalk because we’re born afraid of being alienated from a group.huh huh


There’s a setting function so that you don’t hear alarms go off at midnight. I’m using KAKAOTALK well, thanks!


Please create a function that makes the person you’re in a chatroom with disappear. Even though I block someone, he can still see my profile picture. A person remains on a KakaoTalk chat even after I delete his number from my phone!


A smartphone costs around a million won. How can you use it only for playing a game and making a call? A smartphone is more than an exterior brain; You can access any library in the world and can read thousands of books. You can look for any information you want from millions of dictionaries. Wherever you are you can do the work that you do at home or at the office. You can also save several years worth of diaries and schedules. How can you talk about a feature phone while carrying this tremendous thing in your hands? Casting pearls before swine.


This is the opposite of my case. I deleted it because I don’t have friends.


It would be good if the way you add friends changes in KakaoTalk. I know I can uncheck ‘Add friends automatically’ or hide friends. But I don’t use KakaoTalk because it makes me feel uncomfortable that anyone even at work can check my profile and other information in real time. I hope I can choose to be hidden from unwanted people.


I like Kakaotalk but when I block someone, I hope he can’t see my profile anymore. I said no when he proposed, and got drunk death threats two days in a row. I feel like he is still spying on me.


You can usually see automatically added friends, however there’s no cut off or complete blocking function in the crazy app, Kakaotalk. Even if I delete someone on my friends list, I’m still on his friends list. Sometimes we need to disconnect as well as connect. KakaoTalk is a messenger that shows the trait of Korean people as timid and ambiguous.


I really don’t like the group Kakao message room. Ssibal, I can’t leave the room!


Once I save the number, I can see his Katalk account. This is fucking embarrassing.


If you don’t like the alarm sound, why don’t you try a mute mode? Can’t you use your brain?


When I’m in the library and someone’s phone near me keeps going off and vibrating, I want to hit them.


A game invitation is annoying. The sender doesn’t care about others. They send messages even they are not close to me. Why doesn’t he use his own money? So I blocked all the game invitations, haha.


This is a fucking overreaction. I haven’t received that much spam through Katok.


They can uncheck the ‘Add friends automatically’ box. Why so stressed out?

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