Monday, February 04, 2008

Inspirational ideas

The Joongang Ilbo conveys the best idea the Seoul Government has had in years.
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.
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:

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.


hitest said...

The problem with the dog chip proposal is that there have been no studies done on the possable ill effects suffered by those people injesting these chips :)

Anonymous said...

One of those things that is likely to extend far beyond its original purpose. I can just imagine having to have yourself scanned instead of showing your ID card.

Philip / London Korean Links said...

Well, if I hadn’t read it in the Chosun I never would have believed it. Britain, that famous nation of animal-lovers, injecting their pets with microchips? It all sounds like some April Fool’s hoax. But after a bit of googling and I find there’s some EU regulation about pet passports, which applies to dogs cats and …err… ferrets.

The UK office of the European Parliament has the story from 2004:

[Quote]Essentially, during a transitional period of eight years both tattooing and transponders may be used for dogs and cats; after this period tattooing will be phased out and replaced by electronic transponders.[End quote]
Read the rest here:

And as a further diversion, lest you should worry about the fate of ferrets, these furry friends were fully discussed in the European parliament:

[Quote]Phillip Whitehead MEP (Labour, East Midlands) said:
The Ferret Trust have been following me around over the last few days in a state of great excitement about the provisions on ferrets. In the UK, for sure, there are still some doubt whether you can actually prove the vaccination of a ferret sufficiently to be certain that it could be vaccinated and then be safely transferred as a pet from one country to another. The Ferret Trust told me, very temperately, that they thought the determination of whether ferrets should be included in the pet passport scheme should be deferred until further research had been carried out.

Chris Davies MEP (Liberal Democrat, North West) said:
I am also delighted that the basis for the European proposals are those which have already been applied in Britain. As Mr Whitehead has said, I have learnt, like he, a great deal more about ferrets than I knew a month ago. I am sure the Commission has too. I am sure in fact that the Commissioner is a great ferret fancier: if he has not got a house already full of ferrets then I am sure that the many newspaper articles about the virtues of ferrets have encouraged him to fill his house with ferrets I have no doubt they will make charming and affectionate pets and I look forward to them taking their place alongside cats and dogs at the earliest opportunity.[End quote]

Good to know that our representatives have a sense of humour. As do the officials implementing the rules: the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs website reports that there’s an associated scheme called Dog and Cat Travel And Risk Information (DACTARI). Does anyone else remember that TV programme from the 1960’s?


But all this is a little odd, given that dog licences were scrapped in the UK ages ago.

Anonymous said...

We do have it in the UK, and it works fantastically well. The animal doesn't know it has it and doesn't feel any pain when it is implanted. If the animal is lost or hurt, the owner can be contacted as soon as it is found. If anyone mistreats the animal, we can find out who and they can be punished according to the law (helping to prevent animal cruelty). I really can't see what's to snigger at. We do love our pets, and, speaking as someone who lost their cat before this came in, I wish it had come in sooner. Also, if it stops cats and dogs being dumped in such numbers in Korea, that's an added bonus. You've got it wrong on this one.