Replacement for ID system debated

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Replacement for ID system debated

In the aftermath of Korea’s worst personal data leak, the Ministry of Security and Public Administration has begun work on an alternate citizen identification system that could replace mandatory resident registration numbers.

“We are reviewing measures to revise the resident registration system after consulting with experts,” an official with the ministry confirmed.

The most likely alternative under consideration is a system in which citizens would be assigned random 13-digit codes, a so-called resident registration issuance number.

The combination of figures would offer no clues about the holder’s personal information, unlike current resident registration numbers. If the numbers are leaked or abused, the holder may request a new code.

One’s resident registration number is the main form of identity verification required for almost all financial or social transactions. The first six numbers are the individual’s date of birth, and the last seven indicate gender and hometown.

However, critics of the plan have argued that it is not a fundamental solution and that fraudsters could easily access a random issuance number by tracking a person’s former registration number. The government measure comes after more than one million subscribers to KB, NH and Lotte cards had their personal information illegally leaked, the nation’s financial watchdog announced in January.

In the wake of the scandal, civic groups submitted a petition to abolish the system altogether.

“We have no choice but to feel nervous because it’s hard to know how a leaked resident registration number will be abused and what kind of financial damage it will cause,” said Yoon Chul-han, an executive with the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice.

The government, however, has firmly maintained that the already-dominant resident registration number system will not be terminated.

The ministry is also debating whether to strictly prohibit the use of any government-issued identification number for financial transactions.

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