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Lawmakers to strengthen privacy laws after data theft

Lawmakers vowed to strengthen privacy laws on Tuesday as parliamentary investigations into the recent theft of client data from three credit card companies continued.

Personal information laws will likely be amended with both the ruling and opposition parties agreeing that related laws are filled with loopholes for data thieves to exploit, National Assembly officials said.

Parliament launched an investigation earlier this month in response to the data theft of more than 20 million credit card clients from Lotte, KB Kookmin and NongHyup last year. Tuesday’s questioning session at the National Assembly featured lawmakers thrashing the government for failing to protect private information.

Ruling party lawmakers said current laws must be amended.

“The Financial Holding Companies Act must be amended,” said Saenuri Party Rep. Lee Han-sung. “Current laws require customers to submit as many as 50 items of personal information.”

Fellow Saenuri Party Rep. Kang Eun-hee agreed on the proposal. “Privacy protection acts are spread out over too many ministries and departments,” she said. “We must reorganize related regulations into a more straightforward and transparent legal system.”

The Personal Information Protection Act, the Use and Protection of Credit Information Act, and the Financial Holding Companies Act are some of the multiple laws that govern private data protection.

Main opposition Democratic Party lawmakers also favored the revisions to the related bills.

“The fundamental reasons behind the recent data scandal are problems with related laws,” DP Rep. Min Byung-doo said.

DP Rep. Lee Jong-kul motioned amendments to the current Financial Holding Companies Act earlier in the day. The bill allows financial conglomerates to share personal data among its subsidiaries. Rep. Lee’s amendment would increase regulations against sharing client data.

Opposition lawmakers also intensified calls for President Park Geun-hye to sack current finance minister for making inappropriate comments in connection with the data theft scandal. “The government must fire current Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok,” said Min.

DP Rep. Kim Gi-juhn blamed the government for not taking preventive steps against private information leaks.

“The government’s failure to protect our citizens’ personal data was exposed after the (recent leak),” said Kim. “Policymakers are too busy making up excuses to avoid responsibility for last year’s data theft.”

The National Assembly is set to continue investigations into the recent leak, and the National Policy Committee will hold a hearing session next Tuesday with Hyun attending as a witness. The Security and Public Administration committee plans to hold a separate hearing session on Feb. 19 with Minister of Security and Public Administration Yoo Jeong-bok attending.

By Jeong Hunny (