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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 14)

All News 07:02 January 14, 2020

Passage of 'data bills'
Good to brace for Fourth Industrial Revolution

The National Assembly has finally passed three long-pending revisions aimed at easing regulations on the use of personal information for research and business purposes.

The three were among 198 bills the Assembly approved Jan. 9. Even though it was late, the passage of the three data-related bills, which had been pending for more than a year due mainly to partisan wrangling and concerns about possible privacy violations, will hopefully lead to a better ecosystem for businesses handling personal data.

The bills enable the government, companies and institutions to use personal information, which will be processed to conceal the provider's identity, for research and business purposes.

Using processed personal data is already common in the United States, Japan and the European Union, and the industrial demand for such data is expected to increase rapidly in the years to come. For example, these data are crucial for the development of artificial intelligence technologies, and are also essential for financial, healthcare, e-commerce and other industries that are increasingly dependent on big data. In short, we cannot survive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution without nurturing the data industry.

So after the passage of the bills, Park Yong-maan, chairman of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, posted on Facebook, "Hurray! Finally, we've got them." The importance of the legislation cannot be overemphasized for Korea Inc., which, for survival, has to adapt to new industrial trends.

Of course we understand why civic groups opposed the legislation. Their concerns about possible breaches of privacy associated with the bills should not be ignored because this will remain a crucial problem. Aside from boosting industrial competitiveness, the government should pay attention to protecting personal information.

The passage came about 18 months after President Moon Jae-in vowed in August 2018 to nurture the "data economy" as a driver of the country's innovative growth, promising to improve the legal system so the country can emerge as a global powerhouse in data use. It is regretful that took so long for the deregulation bills to be passed.

Expectations are high that the legislation will be a cornerstone in helping South Korean firms enhance their global competitiveness and better prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. According to the International Institute for Management Development, Korea Inc. placed 10th among 63 companies in the World Digital Competitiveness Ranking last year. The U.S. topped the list for the second consecutive year and Singapore was second, Hong Kong eighth, China at 22nd and Japan 23rd.

Deregulation is the key to preparing for new industrial trends and increasing the country's global competitiveness. The passage of the three bills was a step in the right direction.

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