Struggling to dispel rising public concerns over a massive leak of personal data, South Korea's financial regulator reasserted Thursday that the information stolen from several credit card firms has not been circulated.
Over the weekend, the Financial Services Commission revealed that some 20 million bank clients' personal data, including bank account numbers, addresses and credit ratings, had been leaked from KB Kookmin, Nonghyup and Lotte.
A leak also occurred at Kookmin Bank, which shared its customer data with its affiliated credit card firm, according to the regulator.
"It was confirmed that the leaked data was not distributed, and there is little chance that credit card holders will be scammed with the stolen data," FSC chairman Shin Je-yoon said in a meeting with lawmakers.
The regulator also reiterated that top executives at financial firms would face strong punitive measures for data theft, and negligent firms could have their business suspended for up to six months.
A financial institution will be levied a fine of up to 1 percent of its revenue if its customer data are stolen or when it uses illegally obtained personal information to sell financial products, he said.
"Up to 100 billion won in fines could be levied to such a firm," Shin said, adding that the fine could be more depending on the amount of the firm's annual revenue.
Fears still run deep that the stolen information may have fallen into the hands of financial scammers despite repeated assurances by the regulator. Credit card firms have promised to fully compensate clients for any financial losses stemming from the
Since the revelation of the leaks on Sunday, angry customers have flooded the offices of affected credit card firms and inundated their call centers and websites with complaints. An estimated 3 million people have canceled or applied for new credit
cards since Sunday.
The country's chief economic policymaker apologized on Thursday as public uproar mounted over his comments a day earlier insinuating that consumers were also to blame for not taking caution in providing their private information.
He said the clients had signed on to an agreement about information sharing when applying for credit cards, but consumers said the point was off the mark since card firms demand nearly full information from applicants.
"I offer sincere regrets (about the interpretation of my words) and I am sorry for the citizens suffering inconveniences," Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok said in a statement. "The government will strictly deal with the matter and hold those involved responsible
for the case."