The Korea Herald

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South Korea officially adopts body camera for police officers

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Jan. 14, 2024 - 14:55

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An example of a body camera operated by police officers on a pilot basis from 2015 to 2021 (Yonhap) An example of a body camera operated by police officers on a pilot basis from 2015 to 2021 (Yonhap)

South Korea will officially adopt body cameras for police officers to better manage violent crimes, as well as stipulate measures to ensure the protection of personal information.

According to the National Assembly and the National Police Agency on Sunday, a partial revision to the Act on the Performance of Duties by Police Officers recently passed the plenary session of the National Assembly. The revision sets out the basis for the legal introduction of body cameras and specific standards for use.

The revision integrates the contents of amendments proposed by Rep. Ji Seong-ho from the People Power Party in May 2022 and by independent lawmaker Park Wan-ju in February 2021. The revision is scheduled for implementation in the second half of this year, six months after its promulgation.

Under the revision, body cameras will be classified as official police equipment and distributed through the government budget. Previously, police officers used body cameras at their own expense for purposes such as crime prevention and evidence collection.

The revision includes new requirements for the use of body cameras. They are permitted to be used only to a minimum extent: When a police officer arrests or detains a suspect in accordance with the Criminal Procedure Act; when necessary for an investigation; or when urgently preventing or stopping a criminal act likely to cause harm to a person’s life or body, or an act likely to result in significant property damage.

The revised act also specifies the obligation to notify the use of body cameras and the operating standards for the record information management system. When a police officer records a person or an object, they must notify the person of the recording through lights, sounds or signs. Any recorded video and audio must be transmitted and stored in the database promptly. Arbitrary editing, copying or deletion of footage or audio is prohibited.

The police initially planned to provide a total of 55,000 body cameras by 2028, starting with 5,800 this year. The related budget was set at 8.8 billion won ($6.6 million) for this year and at a total of 82.8 billion won by 2028.

However, diverging opinions emerged during inter-ministerial consultations and deliberation by the National Assembly, leading to expectations that the actual number of cameras introduced will be fewer and that the budget will be reduced.