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 2017.


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 number.



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

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