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Will private detectives be legalized in Korea?

Posted March. 19, 2014 01:56,   


The government has decided to devise this year a specific measure to introduce "private detectives" including scope of work and a qualification system in order to legalize and nurture them. The measure is being taken to prepare institutional framework to ensure that a Korean Sherlock Homes is allowed to legally engage in related activities, and increase jobs.

At a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, government ministers involved, including the Employment and Welfare Ministry, debriefed President Park Geun-hye a “plan on nurturing of new vocations.” According to the plan, more than 40 vocations, including private detectives, greenhouse gas management consultants, and residential welfare specialists, have been listed as new vocations, and are set to receive government assistance.

Notably, the legalization of private detectives will likely become a political "hot potato" once again. Efforts were made to legalize private detectives several times beginning in 1999, with related bills being submitted to the National Assembly on as many as seven occasions, but they have been disapproved repeatedly in the face of public opposition, including concern over privacy violation.

Those who support the legalization of private detective claim that with limited capacity of investigation, prosecutors and police are hardly able to investigate cases such as search of missing children or insurance fraud, whose can be addressed by introducing private detectives. If the government can bring to light existing illegal private investigators by operating the private detective system, they will come to back up the investigation functions of prosecutors and police, generating quality jobs.

However, there will likely be a number of hurdles to overcome before private detectives actually emerge in Korea. “Legalizing private detectives constitutes discarding the nation`s obligation to protect privacy of the people, and is in violation of the Constitution,” said Choi Jin-nyeong, spokesman of the Korea Bar Association. “If there is demand for private detectives, it would be more proper to reinforce police force by introducing measures such as an autonomous police system.”

The work scope of private detectives will also be an issue of controversy. For instance, secretive background check of individuals would generate controversy of privacy violation, and it is difficult to define to what extent the court will accept findings by private detectives in trials of civil cases, including fraud.”