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[Lee Byung Tae's 'babo' economoy] Why does address fraud keep happening?2015-03-10Hit:3722


“Sad phenomenon brought about by the poorly established system designed for administrative ease”


    One of the criteria to evaluate the morality of South Korea’s government officials was their history of address fraud.

    Address fraud is a violation of the Residents Registration Law. The purpose of this law is that residents should register their address for in order to provide support for particular designated neighborhoods and to undertake more efficient administrative affairs.

    To prevent this infringement, citizens are obligated to register their address with the administrative office in less than 14 days after moving if they will live in a different jurisdictions for longer than 30 days.

    We are obligated to carry our ID card and we take the Residents Registration Law for granted. However, this kind of policy is rarely found in foreign countries.

    This kind of system is usually found in countries during war, but in South Korea, it has existed ever since the Republic of Korea was established. Furthermore, ‘Hopae’, a kind of an ID card was introduced in 1354 during King Gongmin of Goryeo, a system with about 660 years of history.

    In fact, ‘Hopae’ also confronted numerous conflicts during the Joseon Dynasty era. As soon as people received the ‘Hopae’, they were added to a family and had to serve the country. To avoid this from happening, illegal acts such as forging one’s identity, were rampant; hence the history of address fraud is as long as the history of ID card.

    The Freedom of Residential Mobility is a critical criterion in democracy. So why do we have to register with the administrative office? Looking at the dark side of it, one would only expect this kind of invasion of privacy, such as keeping track of the population movement, to only appear in George Orwell’s <1984>. Moreover it incurs administrative cost and time of registration. Easily said, the system was designed for administrative ease over the enhancement of people’s benefits.

    One of the reasons why people falsely register their address is for the benefits from it. For instance, children can receive better education in certain areas and there may be benefits regarding investment in real estate.

    All with different reasons, whether it is better education or abnormally profitable real estate, people easily fall into temptation since the cost of actually moving cannot be neglected. We all know that address fraud is illegal and have witnessed government officials put to shame because of it; then why do people still do it?

    It is because the possibility of getting exposed is very low unless the person is a high-ranking official. It would take cops, employees of the Civil Service Office and much other manpower to keep track of address fraud.

    To prevent address fraud, there should be ceaseless surveillance which would cost enormous amount of tax. More importantly, it would invade individual privacy, which is one of the most fundamental rights in democracy.

    The Government also seem to acknowledge these drawbacks. If there is no case of address fraud and if every citizen abides by the Residents Registration Law, the census taken every five years would be a total waste of money. Hence, people are expected to abide by the law on their conscience since address registration is based on a mere sheet of paper that no one, even the government, believes to be credible. 

    Then again, why is address fraud rare in foreign countries? At least no one would have heard of a foreign government official accused of address fraud. Most foreign countries do not have a Residents Registration Law and hence it cannot be illegal.

    However, many other developed countries have industrialized prior to South Korea, and established local governments. Hence, there are larger locational difference in terms of good and bad education and in fact, the U.S has incomparably higher standard deviation for education level depending on the district. In the case of the U.S, property tax is used by the Education Office.

    Since the rich tend to live in a rich area, the Education Office of that area would have a high budget and the opposite would apply to the poorer areas. As a result, students in the rich are get better education than those in the poorer areas.

    Let’s go back to the question, why is address fraud rare in foreign countries? It is because when proving one’s residency, one would have to provide pieces of evidence such as a phone and electricity bill.

    It would be relatively easy to falsely register one’s address, but it would be unrealistic to disguise it by installing a phone line and electricity in another person’s house.

    A country that threatens its people with an ineffective law by creating an official document that cannot even discriminate between address fraud and actual residency, a country that reminds its people that they are vulnerable to opportunism, and a country where the high government officials claims themselves to be morally justified but do not act so. This continuous hypocrisy is the result of the poorly established system designed for administrative ease.

Link: http://www.newspim.com/view.jsp?newsId=20150212000265

Contact : Lee, Sohyun ( sohyun.c.lee@kaist.ac.kr )