It goes without saying that paying bills is never a favourite activity, but in Korea it's even more depressing, what with images like this appended to the bill:Starting next year, Seoul residents may be required to have a microchip inserted into their children to make it easier to search for a lost child. The Seoul Metropolitan City Government yesterday announced revisions to the ordinance on the protection of children and will receive feedback from the public through Feb. 20.
If the law is passed by the city council, it would go into effect in April or May 2009.
Under the proposal, a parent would register the child at a district office and have a microchip, containing a registration number, inserted in the child. Failure to comply could bring a fine of 200,000 won ($212).
The microchip is 8 millimeters long and inserted at the base of the child’s neck. “A child might feel a little pain when the chip is inserted by a syringe but the chip would not harm a child’s health,” said Kim Woon-kyu, an official at the city government.
As it says, Park Su-jin went missing on her way to (or from) school in Cheonan at the age of sixteen in October 2004. She has scars on her upper lip and left knee and is left-handed except when she writes. Needless to say, if they operated scanners to scan these chips at the door of, say, every bus and train station, it would make much easier to find these children. Of course, when you consider that these children will grow into adults one day, it might be best to insert chips into everyone.
Okay, the actual article is about inserting chips into pets, but I thought it would be interesting to take a costly and likely ineffective idea and take it to an illogical outcome. Worth mentioning, though, is that while at first I though the idea was, well, nuts, and wondered just who would be getting the government contract to make these chips, it is worth nothing that the article didn't mention the cause for this policy (like this article did) that 16,000 pets were abandoned in Seoul in 2006 - an eightfold increase since 2000 - which makes you wonder just how many dogs are purchased every year in Seoul and what percentage of them are abandoned. Still, it seems like a perfect example of a Korean government agency's claustrophobia-inducing desire for order and control (in a bodily-invasive manner- remember the 1995 plan to drug test every child in the country?) mixed with a belief in the effectiveness of advanced technology - no better illustrated than by the popularity of KTF and SK's cellphone service that translates dog barks. Yes, people really are that stupid. I can't help but remember the Gregory Henderson quote, "In the non-socialist world, I have so far sensed nothing comparable to the South Korean shadowing of the private by the public sphere." The fact that the government feels the need to inject tags into pets betrays a deep distrust of its own citizens (and lack of infrastructure for abandoned dogs - as the case of the animal shelter forced to close in Daejeon shows).
I can't help but think that this plan would seem more at home in Bong Jun-ho's Barking Dogs Never Bite than in today's newspaper, but then Bong is always satirizing Korean society, so it makes complete sense. And think of the film possibilities - the chips are made in Gaesong, and a North Korean general tweaks them so that the pets will tear out the throats of their owners on his command. You could mix comedy (as if a pack of chihuahuas would really be that scary) with horror (they feast on peoples' eyes, as in Hitchcock's The Birds). Mix in the dogs hiding in apartment stairwells as soldiers hunt for them (as in Aliens: "They cut the power!" "How could they cut the power? They're animals!") and you'd have a potential classic on your hands. Never underestimate government policy when it comes to inspiring bizarre blends of horror and comedy.
The Chosun Ilbo has an article on this here - apparently Britain already has this, as does, my co-worker tells me, New Zealand. It's nice to see Korea is importing only the best foreign ideas.