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Korea

CHURCH, CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSE NEW GOVERNMENT COMPUTERIZED ID CARD

Updated: May 18, 1997 05:00 PM GMT
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South Korea´s move to introduce a new computerized identity (ID) card has met opposition from Catholic and civic organizations.

"On April 19, the Cheju provincial government held a briefing conference (on the new system), but it could not answer anything when asked about the problem of privacy," Father Pius Moon Chang-woo, parish priest of Cheju Chungang Cathedral told UCA News May 13.

According to the government, the new ID card, which will contain 94 items of personal information and 10 fingerprints of a cardholder, will be introduced first in Cheju province, a southern island.

The entire country will begin using the new card from October 1999, the government announced Feb. 27.

Called the "electronic resident card," the new ID card will replace the present "resident registration card" which contains seven personal data items and a fingerprint, and for a man, also his military service history.

Father Moon told UCA News that he opposes the new system because he fears that the Agency for National Security Planning may use the information to control people.

"We can´t imagine how much trouble will occur when someone loses the ID card," Father Moon said, adding that eventually the new ID card will be integrated with the credit card, medical insurance card, and traffic card.

John Kim Hyoung-tae, chairman of the Catholic Human Rights Committee (CHRC), said that the new ID system will put people´s right to privacy at risk, because it aims to contains "too much" personal information.

The new system also makes human rights vulnerable to abuse by leakage or misuse of personal data, such as information about a person´s marital life or medical insurance, Kim, a human rights lawyer, told UCA News May 13.

"An individual must have his or her own space outside the government´s eye," he insisted, adding that such privacy is the essence of human rights.

Kim also pointed out that the requirement of 10 fingerprints shows that the government views every citizen as a "potential criminal."

Last October, 16 Church and civic organizations, including the CHRC and the Young Men´s Christian Association, formed a committee to protect the right to privacy and to oppose the government´s new ID card.

According to the government plan, each registered birth in South Korea will be given an ID number, and anyone who has reached 18 must register personal information and fingerprints to obtain the ID card.

The ID card will be required for confirming identity on occasions of police checks, bank transactions, governmental administration activities, and commercial contracts between two individuals.

END

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