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New era for online ID certifications opens

Private security firms race to replace decades-old public ID authentication system

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

The public online identification system, which has reigned as the single dominant security platform for online transactions here, will lose its legal, official status from Thursday, opening up a new market for private digital certificates providers, the government said Wednesday.

“With the effectuation of the revised Electronic Signature Act on Dec. 10, the system will lose its official status given by the government,” the Ministry of Science and ICT and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety said in a joint press release.

Users will still be able to keep their current online certificates until their expiry date or they can opt for alternative certificates developed by private firms, the ministries said.

Introduced in 1999 as an ID authentication tool for government websites and online banking services, the public online security system has nearly 46 million subscribers -- in a country of 51.6 million -- as of November.

However, it has been a constant source of complaints from users as well as online businesses for its complicated procedures that often involve multiple rounds of support program downloads, such as ActiveX and anti-malware software. It was also criticized as a key hurdle for those residing overseas to access online services here.

The government in 2018 pledged to phase out the authentication system. In May this year, the parliament passed an amendment to a law governing electronic identification to allow it.

The change is widely expected to increase user convenience, as private service providers compete with easier and simpler procedures by using cloud services, biometrics and shorter personal identification numbers.

Government officials on Wednesday vowed to offer support for a smooth transition.

The government would first introduce private certificates in online tax services, they said. The government is reviewing five candidates, provided by Kakao, KB Kookmin Bank, NHN Payco, PASS and value-added service provider NICE Information & Telecommunication.

The selected company will begin providing its digital certificate solution for the year-end tax return process starting in January.

The government also plans to allow people to use private firms’ digital certificates for other public services, such as issuing copies of resident registration and using official government websites.

Meanwhile, the ICT Ministry would push for an amendment of the Electronic Financial Transactions Act so that more digital certificates could be developed and used in the finance industry.

“The ICT Ministry expects more and more digital certificates, equipped with new technologies such as blockchain and biodata, to be developed down the road,” the ministry said in its statement.

The number of digital certificates issued in South Korea as of November amounted to 6.64 million, up from 3.7 million at the end of 2019.

By Shim Woo-hyun (ws@heraldcorp.com)

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