South Korean telecom giant KT Corp. is set to bid farewell to its telegraph service, marking the end of an era that began 138 years ago when the country introduced this method of long-distance communication.
The termination, scheduled for December 15, is due to accumulated losses in the operation. Telegraph service, once the swiftest means of communication, has seen declining relevance since the advent of emails and mobile phones in the 1990s. KT announced this decision on its website last week.
KT, a major player in South Korea’s telecommunications landscape and the country’s leading fixed-line operator, initiated its domestic telegram service in 1885. Over the years, this service has been overshadowed by the rapid evolution of communication technologies, leading to its eventual discontinuation.
“We can no longer provide the service due to a rapid decrease in telegram usage and its accumulated losses,” a KT official stated.
KT Corp., South Korea’s second-largest mobile carrier, ceased its international telegram service on April 8, 2018. This move preceded the recent decision to terminate the domestic telegraph service, marking a broader shift away from telegraphy.
While KT did not disclose the exact number of customers using telegraphs at the time of discontinuation, the decline in usage of this once pivotal communication method is evident. In the 2010s, telegraphs were primarily employed for sending congratulations and gift messages, emphasizing the shift towards more modern and convenient communication channels.
The decline of telegraph services is not unique to South Korea; the trend has been apparent globally. Western Union, a major global money transfer platform, ceased its telegram service in 2006, and Germany’s Deutsche Post followed suit on January 1, 2023. Britain abandoned telegrams in 1982, and the United States sent its last telegram in 2006.
In South Korea, the decrease in telegram users aligns with the widespread adoption of emails and mobile phones in the 1990s. The Ministry of Communication and the Korea Telecom Authority, KT’s predecessor, initially provided the telegram service after the country’s liberation from Japan’s colonial rule.
However, as technology advanced and communication options expanded, telegraphs were primarily reserved for congratulations messages or gifts. The termination of KT’s telegraph service on December 15, 138 years after its introduction, is part of a global pattern as societies transition toward contemporary and digital communication.
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