Korean Immigration to Enhance Security and Efficiency
As Korea grows, so has its numbers of visitors. More than 77 million Foreigners visited Korea in 2010 alone, and as of August 2011, 1.4 million have decided to make their residence in Korea. There has been a corresponding increase in illegal immigrants. To keep better track of this, the Ministry of Justice has implemented various policies such as fingerprinting and an Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). To learn more about the e- government system of Korean Immigration Service, Korea IT Times had an interview with Lee Chang-se, Commissioner of Korea Immigration Service at the Ministry of Justice. With his 20 years of experience as a prosecutor in the Seoul Northern District Prosecutor’s Office, the Commissioner showed his zeal to bring a new perspective to the policy making process at the Korean Immigration Service. “What we prioritize in policy making is the harmony between international citizens and our citizens. Even if a policy itself is perfect for immigrants, it can have a negative influence to our own citizens. We consider a lot to lessen any possible side effects of a new policy,” he said. Their upcoming fingerprint and facial Identification System is expected to slow down the international citizens’ immigration process, but the Korean Immigration Service at the Ministry of Justice is searching for way to overcome this in the near future with the best IT technology. “Although the words security and fast immigration processing sound conflicting, it is our challenge to provide both to our visitors and citizens,” the Commissioner said.
Q : After adapting a SNS into the Ministry of Justice, what kind of changes occurred with immigration complaints and how did this influence the role of the Ministry of Justice?
A : Before adding a SNS, even the smallest piece of information had to be given on paper, which led to a lag of service, inconvenience, and complaints. However, the recent trend for is that people want quick answers and even quicker action, leaving the traditional way of handling inquiries disappointing and unsatisfying.
We at the Korean Immigration Service understood the wind of change in the policy environment and adapted SNS to our services in order to provide a variety of information in a quick method. Starting with Twitter and Me2day in February 2010, and Facebook in November 2010, we are currently providing answers to immigration, introduction to policies, and news to over 3000 SNS users and 8000 policy clients. The biggest change after adapting SNS is that clients started having a favorable attitude towards the Ministry of Justice through these services, and the Ministry of Justice was able to break free from its traditional negative and authoritative image.
Q. We heard that starting next year, the fingerprints of all foreign visitors will be collected. How will this be done?
A : Starting January 1, 2012 all foreigners entering the Republic of Korea, excluding a few exemptions such as diplomats and people under 17, will have to scan their fingerprints and faces during Immigration. Other countries such as Japan and the US are already collecting fingerprints and facial information and the process is quite easy; where travelers press both of their index fingers into the equipment installed at the Immigration checkpoint, fingerprints and facial information are saved within seconds.
However, due to the added fingerprinting collection phase, the screening procedure could get complicated; so many preparations such as reinforcing manpower at immigration and increasing public relations activities are being undertaken.
A : Recently, foreigners who were evicted due to violations of immigration law were caught coming back into the country using passports under another name. The identification process for a foreigner takes a long time during investigations for both criminal and illegal immigrants, causing an inconvenience in the foreign immigrant management policy.
Thus we felt the need for a separate system to identify foreigners. After looking into other nations practices and collecting opinions from specialists, we decided to reincarnate the fingerprinting system, which was abolished in December 2003 due to, protect human rights, and the immigration law was revised to include mandatory foreign fingerprint identification starting August 15th 2011.
Q. With the fingerprint/facial identification system, what would be the difference between a foreigner's and a national's Immigration process?
A : The process for nationals would be the same as usual. However for foreigners, fingerprinting and providing facial information will be added to the process of submitting their disembarkment cards. So a longer screening standby time is expected as additional screening time is added to every foreigner, who is visiting Korea.
Q. Please tell Korea IT Times how the roles of the Ministry of Justice such as managing foreign immigration and foreign criminals is being done by using specific software.
A : Korea is living up to its reputation as an IT powerhouse, and has integrated information and communications technology with biometric identification, and by actively applying this to the immigrations process, has increased task efficiency.
Giving more detailed examples, there is the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS). The system collects and analyzes the entire entrant’s information from the airline companies before arrival. Screening can be concentrated on problematic passengers, and good passengers will go through a quick process.
The second is the automated passport reading system. This system quickly reads the passport’s information than saves it. It also has the ability to automatically distinguish fake passports and makes safe and fast immigration processes possible.
The third is the bio-information system. This system, as explained earlier, collects and matches all the fingerprints and facial information of foreigners who are visiting Korea, thus not only effectively blocking identity thieves who are trying to re-enter Korea, but can also be successfully applied to criminal investigation, and body identification.
With a variety of information technology used in Immigration, Incheon airport came in 1st for the last 6 years in the world airport service review, and won the UN PSA (United Nations Public Service Awards) in 2007. We are also providing on-line stay extension services and other various complaint services, using IT in order to provide better services to foreigners.
Q. What is the Smart Entry Service (SES), and how and towards whom is it used?
A : The Smart Entry Service system allows people to register their fingerprints and facial information prior to entry and it is an automated unmanned Immigration screening process where visitors can screen themselves at immigration checkpoints.
The service is available to citizens over 17, permanent residents, and investors and we are planning to gradually expand users. In order to use the SES, the applicant must agree to provide their bio information and register their passport and facial information along with their fingerprints.
Registration is available at Incheon airport, Gimpo airport, Downtown terminal, Seoul Station, and KOTRA. After registration one can use the SES checkpoints at Inchon and Gimpo airport, and we are planning to expand to Gimhae airport by the end of this year.