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III. Governance issues

Open government

The Official Information Disclosure Act is a "freedom of information act" that allows Koreans to demand access to government records. It was enacted in 1996 and went into effect in 1998.1 The Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that there is a constitutional right to information "as an aspect of the right of freedom of expression, and specific implementing legislation to define the contours of the right was not a prerequisite to its enforcement."2 In 2007, an Information Disclosure Task Force comprised of government, media and academics was formed to create proactive disclosure policies and to suggest revisions to the Information Disclosure Act.3

In March 2003, the Korean Ministry of Education and Human Resources launched the National Education Information System (NEIS), a nationwide database that links the information of over 10,000 school and education agencies.4 The purpose of the NEIS is to enable schools to share education information with each other.5 Various organizations opposed the implementation of the NEIS due to the threat that the system poses on the privacy of students and teachers, including the National Teacher's Union, which organized a strike.6 Furthermore, the NHRCK recommended that the Ministry of Education abandon maintaining three categories of information (school management information, student academic records, and health and enrollment records) within the NEIS, determining that the Ministry lacked the legal foundation to implement NEIS in this manner, and the threat that the system posed to privacy was significant.7 As a result of the opposition, the government decided that they would rethink the NEIS after gathering more information.8

International obligations

South Korea is a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and has adopted the OECD Guidelines on the Protection of Privacy and Transborder Flows of Personal Data.9


  • 1. Wholly amended by Act No. 7127, January 29, 2004.
  • 2. Right to Information (1 KCCR 176, 88 HunMa 22, Sep. 4, 1989).
  • 3.
  • 4. "Privacy or Convenience," Korea Herald, May 22, 2003.
  • 5. Among the stated goals "are setting up the national standardization of educational content, evenly distributing educational information among different regions, and establishing more rational educational policies," Launching the National Education Information System (NEIS)
  • 6. Participants in the strike were also opposed to pressure from the World Trade Organization to open Korea's educational sector to foreign competitors. "Teachers Union to Launch Strike Against NEIS," Yonhap English News, March 26, 2003.
  • 7. Among the risks cited by the NHRCK was the potential for hackers to steal information from the system. Id. The Commission stated that the kind of information that the system contained about a student was so intimate that it demanded constitutional protection. "Privacy or Convenience," Korea Herald, May 22, 2003.
  • 8. Hyung-Jin Kim, "Controversial Education Database under Review," Korea Herald, May 20, 2003.
  • 9.,2340,en_2649_34255_1815186_1_1_1_1,00....