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Finance minister under fire for holding consumers responsible for stolen data
JANUARY 24, 2014 06:52  
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok is under increasing fire for making remarks blaming consumers for the worst financial data leak in Korea while explaining his controversial remarks that held consumers responsible for the stolen credit card data.

Some argue that Hyun`s remarks not simply were slips of tongue but stems from his lack of good understanding of the cause and problems in the data leak incident. As the remarks even go against the government`s measures to prevent the recurrence of financial privacy, some others criticize him for causing confusion rather than cleaning up the mess.

○ Passing the buck on consumers

"I had no intention of passing the responsibility to consumers," Hyun said Thursday of his previous day`s remarks during an economic ministers` meeting. "I just pointed out that 96 percent of financial consumers tend not to check well their terms of information provision. I meant to say that consumers should be more careful when transacting (with financial companies)."

He was referring to his Wednesday remark that consumers should be "careful from the stages of providing their information. Didn`t we all give our consent to providing information?" But he came under heavy fire for the remarks.

Although he was trying to explain the intention of his Wednesday remarks, the public opinion aggravated. Consumers complained that they do not meticulously read the terms of information provision not because they are lazy or careless but because it is impossible to make financial transactions if they refuse to consent to the terms.

Most banks and credit card companies require consumers to provide not only their personal information from names, resident registration numbers but also their marital statuses, hobbies and car ownerships. Due to the problem, the financial authorities have decided to change the system to ban financial companies from requiring consumers to provide non-essential personal information. Therefore, experts say that Hyun`s remarks run counter to the problems that the financial authorities acknowledged.

Many consumers strongly criticize the finance minister for not being well aware of the financial realities nor understanding the government`s measures. One Internet user left an online comment, saying, "Although some 17 million people`s information has been leaked because of negligence by financial companies and authorities, the economic chief is just blaming the people."

○ Political parties grill finance minister

Amid mounting public outcry against the finance minister`s remarks, lawmakers of both ruling and opposition parties also severely criticized him for exacerbating the crisis rather than defusing it. They say Hyun`s Wednesday remark that "foolish people find someone to hold responsible and do nothing but worrying" stemmed from his failure to read the public sentiment.

As President Park Geun-hye said during a January 6 news conference that she would seek to reshuffle the Cabinet if it is necessary, some cautiously project that the data leakage incident could become a factor for a reshuffle of the current economic team.

Shim Jae-chul, a member of the ruling Saenuri Party`s supreme council, on Thursday urged the finance minister to apologize for the "remarks that exasperated the public and fanned public anger." Lee Hye-hoon, another member of the party`s supreme council, also said, "No one would be convinced by Deputy Prime Minister Hyun`s remarks that the authorities were not responsible, although they barely presented stopgap measures under public pressures after carefreely responding to the situation." Park Soo-hyun, the floor spokesman of the main opposition Democratic Party, commented, "My heart is broken because our deputy prime minister for economy is not capable of telling the difference between information provision and information leakage." The spokesman urged Hyun to step down from his post.

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