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South Korea to Roll out Digital IDs as Banks Push Blockchain Driver’s Licenses

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read
Source: Tippapatt/Adobe

South Korea may soon do away with plastic – and ditch physical forms of ID in favor of blockchain technology-powered alternatives.

Smartphone ownership is estimated to be upward of 88% in South Korea – with some sources claiming the figure may be as high as 95%. And tech firms, the government, the police force, and banks have responded by launching initiatives aimed at doing away with plastic driver’s license cards and social security ID cards. Instead, they now favor blockchain-powered digital alternatives.

Woori Bank, one of the nation’s largest commercial banks, announced that it would begin actively “promoting the issuance and use of mobile driver’s licenses” at the 2022 International Security Industry Expo, E Today reported.

Bank staff will begin informing customers on how to go about receiving a blockchain-powered ID. These digital cards can be obtained on-the-spot by using machines in nationwide branches of the National Police Agency and the Road Traffic Authority.

Banks – such as Woori – have also begun accepting smartphone-based driver’s licenses as a form of identification at branches this year.

Blockchain ID Push Intensifies

The move comes hot on the heels of a report from Bloomberg this week, which quoted Suh Bo-ram, the Director-General of South Korea’s digital government bureau, as stating that smartphone-based ID cards would be the norm by 2024.

Suh told the news outlet that the government hopes to roll its solution out in 2024. Seoul hopes to transition 45 million of its 52 million citizens onto the cards by 2026.

Suh also confirmed that the solution will make use of decentralized identity (DID) solutions (also known as distributed identity authentication). He called the solutions an “advanced strand of blockchain technology.”

Suh stated:

“Every service that hasn’t been able to fully transition online will now be able to do so.”

DID solutions have been in the pipelines for several years in South Korea. Both the private sector and the government are keen to develop contact-free, online ID solutions that make use of blockchain technology. Tech giants like Samsung and LG have entered the fray, with some predicting a coming “war” of rival blockchain-powered ID offerings.

Following a successful launch in 2020, the Ministry of Public Administration and Security announced in July this year that citizens nationwide could use mobile driver’s licenses stored on its own app.

Earlier this year, two of Woori’s rivals, Kookmin Bank and IBK Industrial Bank, announced that they would use DID services to allow military personnel online access to banking products. The solution will allow soldiers to prove their identities without the need to visit bricks-and-mortar branches.