[EDITORIALS]Privacy must be protectedA recent National Assembly report showed that some 20 former prosecutors and judges who went on to become lawyers at major law firms received annual salaries of between 600 million won ($630,000) and 2.7 billion won ($2,835, 000). The report criticized the legal community’s practice of giving former judicial authorities special privileges after retirement. Such privileges should be eliminated as soon as possible since they are the root of malpractice but the report went too far when it published the names of the lawyers and the amount of money they make.
It is clear that publishing the income details of a person who has not been indicted of any criminal act is an invasion of privacy. Even if there might be a good reason for publication, an individual’s constitutional right to privacy will be destroyed if such information is made freely available.
The Health Ministry and the National Health Insurance Corporation provided the lawyers’ information and they should be criticized for so doing. Their actions revealed they are insensitive of the need to protect subscribers’ private information.
This is a growing problem. For example, the insurance corporation has provided medical information belonging to police offcers, prosecutors, intelligence agency employees and various committee members. Under the guise of an investigation or a prosecution, medical information has been provided frequently without the knowledge of subscribers. In the first half of this year alone the personal information of 40,000 subscribers was released by the insurance corporation. The Health Ministry said it had no choice but to provide the information based on the National Assembly’s rules and existing laws that regulate private information.
Yet the National Tax Agency has shown there is a choice. It protects personal information through a national tax law that states that taxation information should not be leaked or provided to others.
The health insurance law only bans leaks of an employee’s information but has no rules about providing information to other institutions. This is wrong. Health insurance information should only be used for managing the public health service and collecting insurance payments.
There are unquestionably times when providing some personal information regarding an individual’s income becomes unavoidable. Yet the number of these exceptions should be limited and they should always be justified in detail. The law must be reformed in this direction.