Kakao nears complete recovery nearly 2 days after fire

October 17, 2022

Kakao Corp., the operator of South Korea’s dominant messaging app KakaoTalk, said Monday that it is working for a full recovery of its services disrupted by a fire at a data center over the weekend.

“Most functions of KakaoTalk and other Kakao services are being normalized,” an official from Kakao said. “Some of the less popular services are still unavailable, but we’re working on them”

Nearly all online services provided by Kakao, including KakaoTalk, suffered a massive malfunction from Saturday afternoon due to a fire at SK C&C located in Pangyo, just south of Seoul.

SK C&C houses the data centers for Kakao and Naver Corp., South Korea’s two major tech giants.

The fire was extinguished some eight hours later, but an immediate power shutdown at the data center caused a server outage in Kakao’s services.

Firefighters work at the SK C&C data center located in Pangyo, just south of Seoul, on Oct. 15, 2022. (Yonhap)
Firefighters work in front of a building of SK C&C in Pangyo, just south of Seoul, on Oct. 15, 2022, after a fire broke out there. (Yonhap)
This undated file photo shows Kakao founder Kim Beom-su. (Yonhap)

Firefighters work at the SK C&C data center located in Pangyo, just south of Seoul, on Oct. 15, 2022. (Yonhap)

According to authorities, closed-circuit television caught a fire starting on a battery stored on the third basement of the data center at 3:19 p.m. Saturday.

At 4:52 p.m., fire officials asked the data center to turn the entire power off in order to extinguish the fire, which led to the widespread server outage.

The reason for the fire is still being investigated.

Kakao said the recovery process is taking longer than expected due to a massive server loss.

Services of KakaoTalk, the most popular mobile messenger in the country of 51 million people, with 43 million monthly active users, are operating normally as of Monday morning. Some experience a slowdown in sending massive video clips through KakaoTalk.

Kakao Pay, a mobile payment and digital wallet service, Kakao Games, Kakao Webtoon and Zigzag, an e-commerce platform, are also fully available.

Services of KakaoBank Corp. had been fully normalized around noon, the company said. The financial arm has its main data center in Sangam, western Seoul, so there were no major disruptions to its core services, but some of its features had been unavailable.

Eight out of Kakao’s 13 other affiliates, including Kakao’s internet portal Daum and Kakao T, a transportation service app, remained partially down.

According to the Ministry of Science and Technology, most of Naver’s servers have also been recovered. Naver’s services suffered a partial malfunction on the day of fire, but they were restored in a few hours.

“The restoring measures are under way since the power supply to the SK C&C Pangyo data center resumed at 1:30 a.m. on Sunday,” the ministry said. “About 95 percent of the server is recovered as of 6 a.m. Monday.”

Meanwhile, the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee decided to call Kakao founder Kim Beom-su and other business heavyweights, including Kakao CEO Hong Eun-taek and Naver CEO Choi Soo-yeon, to an upcoming session of a parliamentary inspection slated for next Monday.

Kim, also known as Brian Kim, will likely explain the company’s disaster recovery plans and efforts to determine the cause of the nationwide disruption during the parliamentary session.

Kim, who started KakaoTalk in 2010, stepped down as chairman of the board of Kakao in March.

On Monday afternoon, the Ministry of Science and ICT warned people of fake messages sent by scammers attempting to cash in on online confusion.

According to the ministry, phishing emails have been sent indiscriminately in the wake of the service disruptions to encourage KakaoTalk users to download a hacking program disguised as an installation email of the messenger.

The ministry sent out a warning message through the government’s emergency security messaging service.