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South Korea to implement e-passport system in '08

Posted: 27 Mar 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Korea e-passport system? passport system with information embedded on chip?

The government of South Korea will introduce a new electronic passport (e-passport) system with enhanced security features, according to a report from the Korea Herald. The system will be implemented first on diplomatic passports starting December and will be expanded to the public by July 2008, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Since 2005, the Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Information and Communication of South Korea have been developing the e-passport system with an embedded memory chip that contains personal information such as mug shots, fingerprints and iris patterns.

"The main purpose of the law is to prevent the forgery of passports," according to an official of the Foreign Ministry of South Korea. With the new e-passport system, the rate of use of forged passports in the region is expected to drop from the current 0.06 percent to around 0.02 percent.

Under the system, all data will be encoded in the chip to allow for secure identification of the passport holder and to prevent the copying of information thus, making the use of fraudulent documents difficult. In line with this, citizens are required to visit government offices and have their fingerprints taken for new passports. Meanwhile, people with old passports can continue using them until they expire, according to the report.

Commenting on this, the Foreign Ministry said that the South Korean government will centralize the process of issuing passports and revise related laws and regulations to minimize inconvenience for citizens and the risk of fraudulent use or personal information leaks.

At present, the Ministry plans to have the system's bill approved by the National Assembly in June. If the system gets implemented, South Korea will be on-track to meet its goal to qualify for the U.S. 27 Visa Waver Program countries.

Despite its high-tech security measures, civic groups and some individuals are against the system due to issues on privacy of information and inconvenience. Travel agencies, whose margins will get affected once the e-passport system gets implemented, also opposed the system.

Late last year, the government disclosed its plan to invest around $3.71 billion in public IT projects in 2007. The bulk of the investment will reportedly go to 217 projects, including the establishment of e-passport systems, integrated wireless telecommunications networks and RFID-based waste disposal.

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