All foreigners over 17 will be fingerprinted and photographed when they enter Korea starting in August. A revision to the immigration control law was passed by the National Assembly's Legislation and Judiciary Committee on Monday.
Once the bill passes a plenary session, it will be possible to stop foreigners, who have been deported for crimes in the country, from reentering on a different passport.
Korean-language version here. I was looking around for an offensive cartoon of foreign criminals to pair with this post---Dong-A Ilbo, you taking the day off?---but am a little disappointed to not find one.
This issue has been discussed for years. I've written about it twice before
* December 28, 2008: "Korean government wants to fingerprint foreign tourists and residents by 2010."
* September 22, 2009: "Bill for fingerprinting foreign tourists by 2012 to be introduced next month."
and said that I don't see a problem with asking for fingerprints of tourists upon entry. It was introduced to Japan a couple years ago, and was met with some heavy opposition by readers of Japan Probe and Japan Guide. You'd need to read through some of the articles from 2006 and 2007, which pop up in a Google search, to get a sense of the climate in Japan a few years ago, as a lot of the outrage came because residents and visa-holders were also to have their fingerprints taken at each entry. It's not clear if that would happen in South Korea. The 2008 Korea Times article says
The Ministry of Justice said Saturday that it will propose to revise the Immigration Law so that all foreign nationals, either for short-term stay or long-term, are obliged to provide their biometric information to the Korean authorities when they come to the country.
but it doesn't say whether data of "long-term" foreign nationals would be taken upon first entry or each entry.
As I said this has been in the works for years, but it's recently been in the news because a couple of suspected Taliban members were apprehended in Korea earlier in the month. The Korea Times had a headline typical of that paper, "Seoul Plans to Fingerprint Foreign Suspects From Aug.," but I wouldn't go so far as to consider all foreign tourists as suspects, or to imply that Korea thinks that. The reports of foreign crime are often greatly exaggerated, with reports invariably writing about the increase of crime without also noting the increase of foreigners in the country. The English-language newspapers also pay undue attention to the threat of foreign sexual predators, as demonstrated recently on this March 22nd post, with Korea recently announcing foreign sex offenders would not be permitted into the country.
The government has reportedly changed its regulations to permanently ban foreigners convicted of sex offenses from entering the country.
In light of a series of brutal sex crimes that have outraged citizens recently, the Ministry of Justice said that a revised bill was put into effect last month prohibiting foreign sex criminals from entering the country.
That's what the Chosun Ilbo wrote on March 22nd, but of course the perpetrators of those "brutal sex crimes" were Korean.