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New7Wonders phone number causes stir

2012/03/17 | 303 views |  | Permalink | Source

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By Lee Hyo-sik

Koreans and non-Koreans here and overseas made hundreds of millions of phone calls over the past few years to vote for the country's southern resort island of Jeju to help it win the designation as one of the New7Wonders of Nature in a worldwide poll.

They spent tens of billions of won, thinking that they were making international calls as they had to dial 001 before 1588-7715. To place an international call via KT, Korea's largest landline phone operator, a person has to first dial 001.

But it has been discovered that international calls made by those who wanted Jeju to become a New7Wonders of Nature did not go abroad.

KT said Tuesday that the phone calls made by dialing 001-1588-7715 remained in its internal network, meaning that no one outside the country received such calls.

It said it set up a server in another country to handle and tally 001-1588-7715 calls.

Normally, international calls are transmitted via a telephone firm and connected to the intended numbers overseas.

But the calls for the New7Wonders had no foreign recipient, but instead were stored and tallied in KT's server.

KT signed an agreement with the New7Wonders Foundation to ensure phone voting was only possible through its lines.

In return, the company promised to pay the Swiss-based organization a certain portion of its revenue in commission.

"When the phone voting began on Dec. 29, 2010, the calls were forwarded to a certain number in England. But after April 1, 2011, we were asked by the New7Wonders Foundation to set up our own server overseas to receive the calls", a KT official said.

To set up a server overseas and have a line to direct calls to it, KT increased the charge to 180 won from 144 won. It also cost more to send a text message at 150 won, up from the previous 100 won.

The worldwide poll ended on Nov. 11, 2011 and two months later, Jeju was designated one of the New7Wonders of Nature.

KT said it changed the way 001-1588-7715 calls were handled at the request of the New7Wonders Foundation.

"The foundation told us that its serve was overloaded with too many incoming calls and text messages. It asked us to set up our own server, count the number of calls and provide figures", the KT official said.

The company then said it could have changed the phone number from international to domestic but the National Committee for Jeju New7Wonders of Nature did not want the number to be changed.

The committee has become defunct after Jeju's selection. The Jeju Tourism Organization (JTO), which has taken over the task of promoting the island from the committee, said it had no knowledge of how KT handled phone calls.

"All we know was Jeju supporters made international phone calls. The committee was not aware of how KT managed the calls. Neither were we", a JTO spokesman said.

Jeju Special Self-Governing Province also denied any involvement in KT's handling of phone calls made to vote for Jeju. "It is not our business to know how KT managed 1588-7715 calls. All I can say that they were international calls, not domestic ones", an official said.

'제주 7대경관 투표 무늬만 국제전화?' 논란

제주도가 '세계 7대 자연경관'으로 선정되도록 많은 국민이 참여한 국제전화 투표가 정상적인 국제전화와 달랐던 것으로 드러나 논란이 일고 있다.

13일 KT에 따르면 '뉴세븐원더스재단'이 주최한 세계 7대 자연경관 투표에서 제주도를 지지하는 국제전화 단축번호인 '001-1588-7715'는 KT의 전용망을 오갈 뿐 외국의 수신자가 없었던 것으로 나타났다.

일반적으로 국제전화는 상대국의 교환기를 거쳐 특정 번호로 연결되는 구조이지만 이번 투표에서 KT는 인접국에 서버를 두고 이를 자사 전용망으로 연결했다.

KT는 "투표번호를 처음 개설한 2010년 12월29일부터 2011년 4월1일까지 이 번호는 실제 영국으로 연결됐었지만 이후 서버를 외국에 둔 전용망 방식으로 바꾼 것"이라며 "방식의 차이는 있지만 국제전화인 것은 맞다"고 설명했다.

투표전화 운영방식이 변경되면서 요금이 음성 건당 144원에서 180원으로, 문자 건당 100원에서 150원으로 올랐다. 서버 및 전용망 구축 비용이 반영된 것이다.

KT가 운영방식을 바꾼 이유는 뉴세븐원더스재단의 요청 때문이었다. 당시 뉴세븐원더스재단은 "국제전화·문자가 너무 많이 와 서버에 부담이 간다. 국가별로 자체 서버를 구축한 뒤 결과만 보내달라"고 KT에 요구했다.

KT는 "재단 측의 요청에 따라 국제전화를 국내전화로 전환할 수도 있었지만 이미 '001-1588-7715'가 널리 홍보된 상태여서 이 번호가 국내전화 번호로 바뀌는 것을 국내 주최 측이 원하지 않았다"고 설명했다.

뉴세븐원더스재단과 국내 주최 측인 '제주-세계7대자연경관 선정 범국민추진위원회'의 요구를 모두 수용하기 위해 서버를 국내가 아닌 외국에 설치했다는 것이다. 요금에 대해선 "애초 건당 1천500원이었던 요금을 대폭 내렸다는 것을 감안해 달라"고 밝혔다.

범국민추진위 관계자는 "초반에 KT에 '쉽고 싸게 운영해달라'고 요청한 것 외에는 관여하지 않았다"고 말했다. (연합뉴스)

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