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Foreigners must register fingerprints, facial scans

Foreigners expecting to reside in Korea for longer than three months will be required to register their biometrics upon entry, the Justice Ministry announced on Thursday.

Starting Friday, foreigners planning to stay in Korea for 91 days or longer will have to register all 10 fingerprints and scans of their facial structures at their port of entry.

The new biometrics collection system is part of a revised immigration control law that passed the National Assembly in April 2010.

Some 1.1 million registered foreigners residing in Korea will be required to undergo biometric scans at immigration offices by January 2012.

The new regulation will be used for identification purposes in criminal cases, automated immigration at ports of entry and the social security system.

“Considering that some 177,000 foreigners registered here during the first half of 2011, the new system is expected to register biometrics of some 200,000 foreigners from July to the end of 2011,” said a ministry official.

Korean nationals are already required to register all 10 fingerprints.

The United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and several European countries have adopted the system obligating foreigners to have their fingerprints taken when entering the country, according to officials.

When the bill was introduced, officials said that Japan had seen a 35 percent decrease in the number of crimes by foreigners since they introduced the system in 2007.

The United States, which implemented the fingerprint registration system after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, has caught 33,000 foreign criminals at airports.

But some in the expat community voiced concerns that the new measure could lead to racial profiling, an ongoing issue in the United States.

A similar fingerprint registration system was abolished in Korea in 2004.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)
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