Eighth wonder? Jeju's $18.8m phone bill

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) -

The government of Jeju Island is drawing criticism for having racked up a 21.2 billion won ($18.8 million) phone bill in the voting for the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

Last year the southern island was named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The new wonders were chosen by e-mail and telephone voting conducted via the Internet and phone calls from July 2009 through Nov. 11 last year.

On Thursday the Jeju government report to the provincial council revealed that the telephone voting process resulted in a bill of more than 21.2 billion won.

Of the total about 10.4 billion won has been paid to the telecom operator KT Corp. Of the remainder, the Jeju government plans to pay KT about 6.6 billion won over a period of five years.

The remaining 4.16 billion won, which is KT's profits, has been excluded from the unpaid bill as agreed with the telecom operator.

In addition to the bill from the telephone voting, non-governmental organizations that worked for Jeju's selection as one of the new seven wonders spent 5.67 million won on telecommunications.

On Thursday the Jeju government also revealed the standard participation agreement with the New Open World Corp., the company behind the Swiss-based New7Wonders Foundation that organized the selection process.

According to reports, the contract includes a clause that allows New Open World Corp. to change contract conditions, raising suspicion that it may have been a dual contract.

The councilors receiving the report also called for the government of the island to disclose information regarding other costs that arose from the voting process.

"If the phone bill, and the number of votes are revealed, all countries (that took part in the New7Wonders selection) could lead to the new wonders being ranked and could damage the original intentions behind the event," Jeju's Deputy Governor Kim Bu-il said.

"The New Open World Corp. is said to be giving 50 percent of the profits to New7Wonders Foundations, but the profit sharing structure is unknowable unless the agreement between KT and New Open World Corp. is revealed."

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