South Korea’s Ministry of Justice has proposed a plan to fingerprint all foreigners entering the country, but remains undecided whether members of the U.S. military community will be exempt.

The ministry will submit the revised immigration law to the National Assembly. If approved, fingerprinting will begin in 2010, spokesman Lee Ki-heum confirmed last week.

Lee said no final decision has been made on whether U.S. military community personnel who fall under the status of forces agreement would be exempt when traveling into the country, as they are in nearby Japan.

"We will be thoroughly and carefully reviewing this matter and taking every point into consideration," he said.

The goal is to crack down on illegal immigration and terrorism.

Lee said many Koreans have complained about "reverse discrimination," because they are required to register their fingerprints with the Korean government, but foreigners visiting or living in the country are exempt.

South Korea had required foreigners staying more than one year to submit fingerprints, but the government reversed that policy in 2003, according to local news reports.

Lee dismissed criticism of the proposed policy by human rights groups and expatriates, pointing out that the Korean Constitutional Court ruled in 2005 that requiring fingerprint registration is not a violation of constitutional rights.

In an e-mail response, U.S. Forces Korea spokeswoman Lt. Col. Angela Billings said it would be premature to comment on the issue as it "has yet to even be presented to the National Assembly for consideration."

Lee Sang-jae, with the Korea Migrant Workers Human Rights Center, criticized the plan, saying it brands people as "potential criminals."

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