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13 April


Korea's new passport design ignites controversy

Two draft designs for South Korea's new passport which will be adopted from 2020 were released by the culture and foreign

Photo: Yonhap

Draft designs for a new passport are drawing a heated debate online as to whether the concept and color are appropriate. Observers also raised questions on the necessity to change the design. The culture and the foreign affairs ministries presented the draft designs Monday with two options, one having the Taegeuki (Korean flag) and Rose of Sharon design and the other without any national emblem? writers The Korea times. They plan to choose one by the end of this year after considering public opinion. The new passport will begin to be issued from 2020. After Monday's disclosure of the drafts, some were skeptical of the first big change in 32 years. There was in particular the issue of the indigo color. The current passport is dark green. They said the new passport looks like the North Korean passport or represents the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, which uses the color blue to symbolize itself. Some raised suspicion that the color was changed due to the reconciliatory mood with North Korea. However, the change has been planned since 2007, and the design was selected from entries to a contest held that year. Also there have been requests to change the passport design for over a decade because the dark green cover is out of style and does not reflect Korea's culture. "The color of the passport is based on the winning work from the 2007 Passport Design Contest. Two winners ― fine arts professor Kim Soo-jung from Seoul National University, and graphic designer Ahn Sang-soo ― both designed indigo passports for their entries," an official at the foreign ministry's passport division said. According to the Passport Index, passport covers are designed in mainly four colors ― red, green, blue and black. Blue is the most popular color, adopted by 78 countries including North Korea, the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Many European countries use red-covered passports as well as some Communist countries such as China. Green passports are used by many Islamic countries because the color is significant in their religion, and black is adopted by the least number of countries. Some claim the passport design change is a waste of the national budget. In response, the official said, "It doesn't mean all passports will be changed in 2020 all at once, but the new design will be adopted for passports that will be issued after 2020. Each passport applicant will also pay a fee, so the money from the national budget is not used." The ministries also introduced two other colors ― dark grey for officials' passports and red for diplomatic ones. The color and design will be finalized after the survey which began Monday is completed. The survey will ask people to choose one of the two indigo designs, whether the nation has to have different colors for official and diplomatic passports, and if the nation should use only one color chosen from among indigo, dark grey and red. The government also plans to remove people's resident registration number from the passport. The photo and personal information will be contained in a polycarbonate chip, which is more resistant to heat and external impact than the currently used stiff paper.