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Cyworld faces business shutdown

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A person uses Cyworld's microblogging service in this 2006 file photo. / Korea Times file
A person uses Cyworld's microblogging service in this 2006 file photo. / Korea Times file

Once most popular social network platform out of service

By Baek Byung-yeul

Cyworld, once the most popular social media site here in the 2000s, is facing business shutdown after struggling with a rapidly decreasing user base and failure to revive the dying platform.

As of Sunday, the social media platform is not accessible via its website or mobile app as the company halted its service abruptly on Oct. 1 without issuing any notice.

Given company officials including its CEO Jeon Jae-wan have been out of contact, and Jeon commented on the difficulties in managing the social media platform in July, industry officials said the service is now on the verge of being shut down.

"Everyone regarded my sincerity to revamp the platform as a reckless challenge or money spinner… I guess it is time to stop operating the platform," Jeon wrote on his Cyworld account in July. Jeon is also known as a founder of now-defunct Freechal, the country's first-generation portal site.

As Cyworld is not accessible, users are expressing their worries that they may have lost the chance to make a backup of their photos and texts on the platform. They are also criticizing the company as it didn't issue any notification about the service closing.

"I am about to lose my diaries, photos and videos that I stored in Cyworld for the past 10 years. Maybe it is my fault for not making a backup because everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the company stopped the service," a netizen wrote on an online community site.

According to telecommunications business act here, operators should notify their customers of their service being shut down 30 days before doing so. As the domain of the website is scheduled to be expired on Nov. 12, the company should have issued a notice to its users by Oct. 13.

Launched in 1999, Cyworld enjoyed its popularity as a major social media platform until the mid-2000s, posting about 100 billion won ($85 million) in annual sales with about 32 million users in its prime.

However, the service yielded to overseas platforms such as Facebook and Twitter after failing to adapt its PC-based service to a mobile environment in the 2010s when the smartphone era started to gain traction.

The company was separated from SK Communications in 2014, a subsidiary of SK Group, which operated the platform from 2003 to 2013 and was acquired by Jeon, CEO of AireLive, a local video chatting service firm. In an attempt to revive the dead platform, Cyworld succeeded in raising 5 billion won from Samsung Group's venture capital arm in 2017 and launched an online news service but ended in failure.

Employees, who have been experiencing payment delays since the end of 2018, left the company in the second half of 2019 and the company's assets were seized provisionally as it failed to make a payment to content providers.

Baek Byung-yeul


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