The Korea Herald


South Korea's constitutional court rules in favor of banning private detective agencies

By Claire Lee

Published : July 10, 2018 - 16:27

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South Korea's Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of banning private detective agencies, claiming the existing laws are the only way to protect the privacy of the general public.

The unanimous ruling was the court’s response to a complaint filed by an ex-police officer who claimed Article 40 of the Credit Information Use and Protection Act violates the freedom to pursue careers of one‘s choosing.

South Korea is currently the only country among the 34 member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development where private detective service is illegal.
Inside South Korea`s Constitutional Court in Seoul. (Yonhap) Inside South Korea`s Constitutional Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The law states that no person, other than a credit information company, shall perform “finding out a certain person’s whereabouts and contacts” and “investigating his or her private life.” It also bans using titles such as private intelligence service agents and detectives.

Those who violate the law can face up to three years in prison or a fine up to 30 million won ($26,902).

“There were recent instances where people illegally collected personal information on others by using spy cams or location trackers,” the court said. “Considering this, there is no way to protect people’s privacy and peace of mind other than by banning businesses that investigate personal lives of others.”

On the ban on the use of the title “private detective” and “intelligence service agents,” the court said the ban is necessary as people can be misled to think that private intelligence or detective service is legal in the country.

In many other countries, including Japan and Canada, private detectives, who can be hired by individuals, often work for attorneys in criminal or civil cases.

Currently, two legislative bills that propose the introduction of government-licensed private investigators or detectives have been introduced at the National Assembly.

By Claire Lee (