On January 20, 2020, following the first cases of people infected with COVID-19 in Korea, the Korean government and local autonomous entities have been delivering emergency text messages. Through this service, citizens get information such as infection prevention guidelines, the latest status of the infection, and regular updates on the pathways of infected people.
According to the National Disaster and Safety Portal, as many as 1,466 disaster texts were sent from 1st to 9th of March. As a consequence, the spread of COVID-19 is making emergency text messages a part of citizens’ everyday lives. With this in mind, we might ask: How are these texts sent to citizens’ cell phones?
The principle by which texts are sent is similar to that of radio reception. Its official name is Cell Broadcasting Service (CBS). Text messages are sent out by authorities, and those messages are then picked up by cell phones that receive signals from base stations. All of this is done without collections of citizens’ numbers.
Therefore, texts are sent not based on an individual’s address, but the location that the individual is currently located. A participant related to the Ministry of Public Administration and Security stated, “If radio waves are received from base stations in an adjacent local government area, citizens can receive emergency texts from other regions”.
In an emergency situation such as that caused by COVID-19, these text messages can be useful for information provision, but there are also people who suffer from inconvenience.
When The Seowon News asked the students at Seowon University what they thought about emergency disaster texts, many said, “Sometimes information that is not important is sent”, and “I woke up because of the emergency text alert when I was sleeping”.
As well as those who are lecturing or studying in reading rooms, citizens with babies at home have complained about reckless disaster text messages. As a result, people who feel inconvenience block text messages or else set their phones to vibration mode to avoid noise disturbances.
Subsequently, after receiving complaints from citizens, on March 15, 2020, Cheong-ju announced that it would change the standard for sending emergency messages. Text messages about an emergency cooperation issue or infected movements were no longer to be sent between 6-8 a.m. Furthermore, the government banned the sending of ‘no further infected’ information messages that had been sent out daily at 9 a.m.
Although it is good for citizens to be assisted with the regular information that the government is sending, there are some who are complaining about this system. However, the government is improving the system by increasingly accepting citizens’ opinions whenever it is possible.