[THE KOREA TIMES_엄윤령 변호사] What does Korean law say about identity theft?

By Eom Yoon-ryung

Identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain financial advantage or obtain credit and other benefits.

Under Korean law, just pretending to someone else is not a punishable offence, but there are acts commonly involved in identity theft for which regulations have been put in place.

However, the types of such actions have become more diverse, leading to areas that are difficult to regulate. What are the laws about identity theft, and what improvements can be made?

The most common areas of identity theft involve opening mobile phone accounts, obtaining credit cards or withdrawing money from bank accounts.

In these cases, the offender needs to provide the resident registration number or resident registration card of another person, and must submit documents containing the other person’s personal information to relevant organizations such as banks, mobile phone companies, etc.

In addition, someone may inflict tangible and intangible damage by using an illegally issued mobile phone, credit card, etc.

“A person who uses a third party’s resident registration certificate improperly” is subject to criminal punishment based on the Resident Registration Act, and “making a document by assuming the capacity of another person and submitting it to related organizations” can fall under the Criminal Act against counterfeiting personal documents and using of falsified private document.

Pretending to be someone else to withdraw funds can fall under the crime of fraud.

On the other hand, new types of identity theft have been increasing _ for example, by pretending to be someone else on social networking services such as Facebook, Instagram, dating apps, etc.

This kind of identity theft does not use the resident registration number of others, nor are documents counterfeited, nor is it fraud for monetary gain.

The Personal Information Protection Act prohibits the use of personal information without consent, but it applies only to those who use personal information for official or business purposes.

What about criminal defamation? The Supreme Court recently ruled that defamation is established only if the allegations do not correspond with the allegations.

Therefore, the need for new regulations is emerging. In some countries, legislation has been introduced to make “identity fraud” a crime, and to punish such account stealers.

According to the Seoul District Police Agency, cases of identity theft on social networks in Korea are increasing every year, with more than 1,000 reported annually.

In Korea, it is time to recognize the seriousness of these actions and to establish penalties to punish such new types of identity theft.





Eom Yoon-ryung is a lawyer in the Tech & Comms, Criminal Litigation, and Criminal Defense practice groups, and has handled various criminal cases relating to white-collar crime, trade secrets and corporate compliance.

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