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As Passport Line Creeps, Anger Flares

Posted July. 08, 2006 03:00,   


Some 200 people were standing in front of a passport department on the fourth floor of the Jongno ward office at 7:30 a.m. on July 7. They left their home at dawn to apply for a passport.

Kim Jeom-sun (45, female) said, “I came here at 8:00 a.m. yesterday, but failed to apply for it. So, I lined up at 6:00 a.m. today and barely got a stand-by ticket.”

As it turned 8:40 a.m. when passport services at the ward office starts, a long line stretched from the fourth floor to the first floor. Within an hour after the service started, the PA system said the application period was over. About 100 people had to leave empty-handed.

A man in his 30s shouted. He failed to get a stand-by ticket, which is distributed to only 680 people a day because a travel agency worker in front of him applied for five people altogether.

When he protested, “How can this happen? I came here from Gyeonggi Province at daybreak,” a ward office worker told him to come back the next day, saying there is nothing he can do, due to the rules.

The passport issuing service belongs to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, but in actuality, 37 ward offices in cities and provinces nationwide provide this service. Ten of 25 ward offices in Seoul handle passport services.

Usually, lack of a workforce delays the issuing passports. Furthermore, the increase in the number of applicants with the summer vacation season ahead has caused lots of complaints.

The rumor that the Jongno ward office has 45 persons in charge, so they handle the service two or three days faster than other places, is drawing applicants even from other cities and provinces.

The Jongno ward office has different windows for individuals and agencies, and they deal with 680 and 640 cases a day, respectively, in the order of arrival.

However, travel agency workers often stand in line for individuals, so many people complain about this. Some travel agencies are employing even part-timers to carry out the duty of lining up.

Travel agencies handle the work more quickly, and so many people trust them with carrying out this service even though they have to pay commissions.

An official at a ward office in Seoul said, “Vicarious application by the agencies does not violate the rules, so we cannot help it. In particular, it is hard to tell part-timers from ordinary people.”

An official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said, “We recommend the ward offices to receive applications in the morning and do their service in the afternoon, but they are reluctant to do so, because of the increase in their workload. We plan to extend a system in which personnel and equipment related to passport services are integrated and managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.”

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