May 17, 2012 13:02
The Ministry of Justice has failed to obtain the fingerprints of 520,000 out of 980,000 foreign residents in Korea for a database it is compiling. There is therefore no way for police to identify them if they commit crimes or fall victim to accidents.
The gap results from the abolition of the fingerprint program by the Roh Moo-hyun administration in 2003 on the grounds that it violates foreigners' human rights. But when crimes committed by foreigners more than doubled since the program was halted, the Justice Ministry revived it in July last year.
A ministry official said immigration offices nationwide have obtained the fingerprints of 460,000 registered foreigners, or about 47 percent of the total, but there is no way to force the rest to give their fingerprints. Fingerprints are only collected when they visit immigration offices to renew their visas or register their residency.
There are doubts whether the current controls are effective. According to the relevant laws, when foreign residents move house, they need to report the change of address to the local immigration office within 14 days. Failure to do so results in a fine of up to W1 million (US$1=W1,167).
But the murder of a young woman in Suwon by an ethnic Korean from China in April shows the ineffectiveness of the current system. The suspect told police he lived in six different places including Suwon since he came to Korea in September 2007, but he only reported three changes of address.
Prof. Hwang Eui-gap of Kyonggi University said, "When foreigners realize that they don't have to register their address, they may get a sense of impunity, so that could cause problems when crimes happen."
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