President Park Geun-hye issued a rebuke to the finance minister Monday after he suggested consumers are also at fault in the data leak crisis, saying she would hold anyone who makes similar hurtful remarks accountable.
Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok caused uproar by suggesting that consumers were also to blame for not taking caution in providing their personal information. Hyun, who doubles as deputy prime minister, apologized, but the opposition party has been demanding his resignation.
"It is regrettable that inappropriate remarks by public officials have hurt the feelings of the people ... What those in socially responsible positions say is different in responsibility and weight" from what others say, Park said during a meeting with senior secretaries.
"I hope there will be no public officials who make remarks that hurt the feelings of the people. I hope they will work with a mindset to care for and respect the people. If this kind of thing happens again, I will make sure to ask (whoever is at fault) to take responsibility," she said.
Park also instructed officials to come up with fundamental measures to prevent a similar data leak crisis from happening again, including measures to improve what she calls a "reckless" collection of personal information by financial firms.
She also instructed officials to consider introducing alternative online identification methods that do not require resident registration numbers, including using drivers' license numbers in place of resident numbers.
Some 20 million bank clients' personal and financial data are believed to have leaked from three credit card firms: KB Kookmin, Nonghyup and Lotte. Customer's fears have grown further following news reports that seven other credit card companies have also suffered data leaks.
Park also called for deregulation in the services industry, saying the sector is a key source of quality jobs. She put a particular emphasis on the need to allow telemedicine, which she said has great market potential at home and abroad.
Telemedicine has been a sensitive issue in South Korea as doctors have threatened to go on strike in protest of the government's push for it. Doctors running neighborhood clinics fear it would lead to a reduction in their income as they suspect patients would favor larger hospitals.
Park said that all global CEOs she met at last week's meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland stressed the market potential of remote healthcare services because the current face-to-face approach to medical services can't meet growing demand.
"If our companies are going to become active players in the global market with huge potential, we need to allow them to play appropriately in the domestic market first," she said. "This is also an opportunity to increase the access and quality of medical services for those living in remote areas."
Park stressed that deregulation in the services sector is a must for creating jobs and boosting domestic demand, saying that expecting good jobs from the industry without deregulation amounts to asking people to run with their ankles tied. (Yonhap News)