[EDITORIALS]Adjust the Wiretapping Laws

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[EDITORIALS]Adjust the Wiretapping Laws

It turns out that law enforcement authorities can wiretap citizens anytime they want to, which makes it urgent to revise a related law. A recent report by the Korea Institute of Criminology points out that the number of crimes subject to wiretapping under the Protection of Communications Secrets Act stands at 150 or so, and the legal duration of such monitoring is too long, raising the possibility of human rights violations. Under the law, authorities can wiretap crime suspects for up to three months and those involved in national security issues for up to six months. The periods are also extendable.

Considering that wiretapping involves the invasion of privacy, communication secrets are a basic right of the people that must be protected. Nevertheless, instances of wiretapping continue to rise every year. According to data submitted by the Ministry of Information and Communication, the number of bugging cases by the National Intelligence Service reached 663 during the first six months of this year, up 75.9 percent from the same period a year earlier. Wiretapping by the public prosecution totaled 165 during the January-June period, an increase of 22.2 percent.

In many cases, local telecommunication companies provided individuals' communication records and information at government agencies' request, even without court-issued warrants. During the first half, there were 7,015 instances where the firms provided such information to the spy agency and 18,154 cases to prosecutors. These numbers also increased sharply from the comparable period last year. Because there are more cases of illegal surveillance by the authorities, virtually everyone's privacy is exposed.

The development of communication is one of the factors that has contributed to the rise of bugging cases. However, the primary cause can be found in the provisions in the current law, which is too generous in its definition of crimes subject to wiretapping. The clause "to prevent harm to national security" can even be misused for wiretapping for the purpose of monitoring politicians. In order to be faithful to the original idea of the Protection of Communications Secrets Act, the number of crimes subject to wiretapping and the duration must be reduced drastically.
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