[Issue] [February 2016] In Focus_Social Affairs : Meaningful Decision of the Constitutional Court

Meaningful Decision of the Constitutional Court


Kwon Tae-Hwan

Staff, Citizens’ Rights Center



Outside the
press conference of the constitutional court’s acceptance of change to a resident
registration number on December 23, 2015.


The decision of the Constitutional Court demonstrates that the Residents
Registration Law is unconstitutional.

On December 23, 2015, the
Constitutional Court decided that Article 7 of the Residents Registration Law
violates Constitutional Law. The article doesn’t stipulate regulations on
changes to the 13-digit resident registration number, but seeing as the leakage
of numbers has violated individuals’ personal information control rights, the
decision has confirmed the necessity for a change in a resident’s registration
number. The National Assembly is slated to revise it on December 31, 2017,
which implies that the new regulations ought to be implemented by the end of


The Government stands idly by while citizens sit naked and exposed.

South Korea seems to be the only country
where all people have experienced their personal information leaking out. The
annual incidents spill out personal information and resident registration
numbers on a large scale. However, those exposed are virtually naked, watching
their unchangeable personal information circulate around the world.

The leakage of customer information by
3 credit card companies in January 2014 had created an opportunity for the
government to suggest fundamental solutions, but that did not happen. Rather,
the government came under fire for the revision it submitted in December 2014. Since
the requirements for any change were so strict, they were impossible to realize.
Independent experts on the reform committee for the resident registration number
were deemed unqualified to overhaul and change the resident registration



The right direction for the Residents Registration Law

In August 2014, the National Human
Rights Commission of Korea asked for the National Assembly Speaker and Prime
Minister to fundamentally reform the residential registration system. Both the Prime
Minister and the National Assembly should put forth a bid to resolve the issue.

Nevertheless, the government focuses
on insisting the traditional structure of the system ought to consist of a
birth date, sex, the area where people were born and birth order.  The system makes it easier for personal information
to leak and circulate through reorganization of the information when making a
new residential registration number.  These
issues have been highlighted several times.

Another problem is that the
registration numbers are allowed to be collected. Even though the law
restricting the collection of registration numbers was implemented in August
2014, almost 1000 Articles still make it possible. The intrinsic purpose of the
system is to improve the convenience for people while making administrative
procedures more effective. Therefore, the numbers should be limited and revised
for proper use in different fields such as taxation, health and medical services,
and social welfare. The abuse in extraneous sectors just worsens the situation.



Recommendations to prevent exposure

First of all, the change of resident
registration number should be permitted. 
The revision of the Residents Registration Law has been discussed for a long
time.  The Citizen’s Coalition for
Economic Justice (CCEJ) and other civil society organizations have called for
the National Assembly to revise the system with the following stipulations:

i. The purpose of the resident registration
number should be clear. The inappropriate use is to be limited with new number
in each different section.

ii. The application to change the
number should be broad except for unavoidable cases.

iii. The committee for reform of the
resident registration number ought to be placed under the control of the Personal
Information Protection Commission (PIPC)

iiii. Temporary numbers should be
provided to individuals whose identities have already been jeopardized.


Now, we must wait and see how the
Residents Registration Law will be revised. We at CCEJ hope the National
Assembly will not sit idly by while citizens are exposed to massive personal
security leaks any longer.


Translator : Kim Young-Jin