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Resident ID number’s vulnerability to information crime should be remedied

Resident ID number’s vulnerability to information crime should be remedied

Posted February. 03, 2014 08:16,   


People often hear “Let’s open up our resident IDs.” It means that they are to display their resident IDs to confirm‍ each other’s identity. This phrase was used as such because a resident ID number contains various personal information including age, date of birth, last name, and place of birth. Such personal information was leaked en masse in the recent data leak fiasco. If one has his or her credit card number and bank account number leaked, he or she can change the numbers or even discard them for good. However, the resident ID number is kept through one’s life. Once leaked, information cannot be retrieved in any way.

The current resident ID number system, which allocates a unique number to individuals, is very convenient in terms of management and use. For this reason, various other forms of personal information are built upon the resident ID number and used. However, if the resident ID number is leaked, no other information that has been built upon it can be secure. For instance, if one has someone else’s resident ID number, the former can gain not only the latter’s financial information and credit situation, but also trace disease history and academic records by hacking hospitals and schools. The recent leaks of more than 100 million cases of personal information have exposed almost all Koreans to the risk of information crimes.

President Park Geun-hye instructed the government “to examine if there is any other alternative (to the resident ID number) that can identify individuals by referring to examples overseas.” If only control over collection, storage and management is strengthened while keeping the current system intact, there is no corrective measures for the information that was leaked already. Korea must change the personal identification system altogether or at least add a certain secret code to the existing resident ID number.

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea recommended the Security and Public Administration Ministry to change the resident ID number system itself. The commission asks the ministry to replace the number with a combination of random numbers to make the ID code in itself carry no meaning, and make it possible for people to change the code by winning approval from the court. Pointing to the “volume of information contained in the resident ID number,” the Constitutional Research Institute under the Constitutional Court also said, “The resident ID number overly excessively restricts individual’s own right to determine one’s own personal information, and thus constitutes violation of basic rights.” The United Nations Human Rights Commission also advised Korea to reconsider the resident ID system, and restriction to provision of resident ID numbers in 2008.

In the U.S., social security number and driver’s license number are used in lieu of the resident ID number. In Germany, the national ID card is reissued every 10 years. The identification code in the German ID card contains no information, and one can change it when there is justification for a change. If Korea is to change the resident IT system that has been used for more than half a century, it will entail significant inconvenience and costs. If left unaddressed, however, resident ID numbers can become a seed for the disaster of information crimes. On a path toward information society, Korea should comparatively analyze costs and benefits based on “open attitude,” and make wise choice.