[Editorial] Personal data protection

By Korea Herald

Overhaul due for resident registration system

  • Published : Feb 5, 2014 - 19:54
  • Updated : Feb 5, 2014 - 19:54
In response to the recent massive theft of personal data, the administration has started work on how to improve the resident registration system. An improvement to the system is long overdue, given that resident registration numbers have been illegally obtained and used on numerous occasions in the past. Yet, it is better late than never.

Resident registration is a system under which each person is given a universal identifier upon birth ― a 13-digit number containing basic personal information such as date and place of birth and gender.

The government uses the resident registration numbers for the management of personal information for wide-ranging administrative purposes, ranging from tax and property registration to medical insurance and military service. Financial institutions and other private-sector organizations demand them when people apply to use their services.

The problem is that the numbers, when they fall into the wrong hands, may wreak havoc with deposits with banks, purchases on credit cards and many other business transactions. Their theft may also result in the loss of personal information ranging from places of residence to mobile phone numbers. No wonder, 20 million cardholders turned jittery when they recently learned that an employee of a personal credit rating company had stolen their resident registration numbers and other personal data.

With the seriousness of the issue in mind, President Park Geun-hye told her administration to study personal identification systems used in foreign countries and work on the possibility of using an alternative to the resident registration system. Moreover, the National Human Rights Commission and the Constitutional Research Institute have recommended a revision to the resident registration system. The reason is that it poses a threat to human rights as it severely restricts self-determination on the provision of personal information.

The administration says it is open to all reform proposals from experts.

Among the proposals that are already made is the idea of giving a person the issuance number of his resident registration card for use as a replacement of his resident registration number. Another idea is to make a resident registration number alterable when it is leaked.

It is about time the resident registration system was changed again. It was introduced in 1968 and first revised in 1973. It goes without saying its revision must be based on a tighter protection of privacy.