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Cracking Down on Fake Passports

Posted March. 02, 2010 09:21,   


Over the past five years, an average 2,154 foreigners per year have been caught using forged passports by immigration. Given that a significant number of fake passport users passed through immigration without being caught, the real number could be much higher. A Pakistani national arrested last month had entered South Korea 17 times using his brother’s passport with his photo on it. Police arrested him after getting a tip that a movement had started to create a pro-Taliban group in South Korea, but later learned he used his brother’s passport.

North Korean defectors also often use forged passports. All they need is a Chinese passport to enter South Korea since they do not have their own passports. In China, selling passports for profit is not uncommon. Passport brokers attach photos of North Korean defectors on Chinese passports and send the defectors to South Korea, while holding the defectors’ children hostage. Upon arrival in South Korea, the defectors tell airport authorities that they are North Korean defectors. After a certain period of time, they receive a resettlement allowance from Seoul. The defectors then send part of that money to brokers, who then send the defectors’ children to South Korea.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas launched rockets at Israel in December 2008. When a high-ranking Hamas leader was assassinated at a hotel in Dubai in January this year, Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency drew suspicion. The suspects caught on surveillance footage at the hotel had used forged passports with European names on them. The Dubai airport does not take photos of foreign visitors or fingerprints. Dubai, whose breach of security was exposed in the incident, is angry over the assassination and wants prosecution of the Israeli prime minister and the Mossad director.

South Korea will deploy a reconstruction team and military forces to Afghanistan in July. Seoul will also host in November the Group of 20 summit, an event in which half of the participating countries have sent troops to Afghanistan. The risk that terrorists could sneak into the country is and rising. Like the U.S. and Japan, South Korea needs to revise immigration law to allow the taking of photos of foreign visitors and fingerprinting at airports or ports. This will greatly reduce the use of forged passports. One of the best ways to protect human rights is the prevention of terrorism.

Editorial Writer Lee Jeong-hoon (hoon@donga.com)