30 years have passed since the Korean government forced its people to seal all of their fingers on a piece of a card. This usage started in 1968, during the late President Park’s dictatorial regime, when Kim Shin-jo and his armed troops from North Korea infiltrated near the Blue House. It is time, however, such usage be eradicated. Korea is the only country in the world that drive its people to seal their fingerprints, which started out to “ferret out spies” from the North. It is vestige of fascism and it is still trampling down people’s rights of privacy.
The Korean government and the police demand the necessity of collecting fingerprints with reasons such as an efficient means to track down criminals or verify casualties. But the fact is that fingerprints have nothing to do with these reasons. A simple question to ask ourselves is: how does the rest of the countries in the world go through investigations when they do not take people’s fingerprints? According to an official data by the Regional Police Headquarter in 2000, checking fingerprints made up less than 1% of the chance to round up suspects in the scene of the crime. Last February, the judge of the appellate court in the U.S. also announced that fingerprints will only be partly approved as an evidence. For the 1% success in arresting a criminal by fingerprints, it is needless that 50,000,000 people in South Korea admit their fingerprints for identification. Discerning genes and structures of rows of teeth are two of the preferred ways that are being used to verify the casualties. If the fingerprint of the deceased is necessary, it can always be taken from the belongings of the deceased. It does not make sense that the government take everyone’s fingerprints “just in case” in ordinary times.
More than anything, the system that people admit their fingerprints should be abolished. It is against the Constitution that it is invading personal rights along with personal liberty and disturbing a person’s privacy. Moreover, nowhere in the world has the police agencies have the manage over the collected fingerprints of the entire nation and use them randomly for investigations. Japan was target of criticism for collecting fingerprints from foreigners residing in Japan, until such law was repealed in 1999. Korean government and the press that attacked the Japanese legislation back then, are strangely keeping silence to the nationwide sealing of fingerprints that has been carried out in Korea.
There is no other reason for taking fingerprints from the people. From the government’s
standpoint, it is an efficient way to control the nation and forcing to maintain the system. There is nothing more scarier than being used to something so that you do not realize what is wrong and what is right. What are the grounds for the government to keep everyone’s personal records under their management? It cannot be because certain person can commit a crime in the unknown future. The Article 17 states that all people have the right to be protected of his or her private life. A state cannot be an exception to interfere such rights. Personal information should belong only to the concerned person him/herself. That is what the rights of personal privacy is all about. The “resident registration card” system that includes the sealing of fingerprints is greatly infringing people’s privacy by collecting and superintending people’s fingerprints without any kind of agreement from the nation. The reality of Korea today is that the government has the right over an individual’s personal information and not the people themselves. It is time that things become straightened out.
This fascist system has been engraved onto the minds of the Koreans. Sealing fingerprints have been the main culprit that made the rights of privacy to become impossible to exist in Korea. We, the members of the Solidarity of Opposing Sealing Fingerprints, are going to make a suggestion to abolish such usage. During the upcoming election for the local government and the 16th President, let’s use another kind of card to identify oneself instead of the resident registration card. If one does not hold an identification card of any kind, let him/her demand that his/her rights to vote must be secured. Currently, most of the identification cards are based upon the numbers on the resident registration cards. So identification cards that are valid for voting is being issued to those that hold resident registration card. This means that the government will have to secure the rights to vote for those who oppose or refuse the sealing fingerprints. A person can follow his thought or his inner voice to say no to what may be hurting one’s rights and that doesn’t let the government have the authority to infringe the suffrage, which is one of the basic rights in the Constitution. We ask all of you, who believe that the sealing of fingerprints should be stopped immediately, to participate in the movement to oppose this system. We are certain that a person of consciousness will agree with us and until the day we get rid of the system, we promise to fight against it with all our
May 30, 2002
People’s Solidarity for Social Progress
Korean Human Rights Group (Sarangbang)
Citizen’s Action and Solidarity for Human Rights
Coalition against Finger Print