How South Korea created an urban planning system into a virus following database

When a man in Seoul found positive for the new coronavirus in May, South Korean establishments were able to settle his wide-ranging activities in and outside the city in minutes, counting five bars and clubs he stayed on a recent night out.

The fast response – well in advance of many other countries facing outbreaks – was the outcome of merging South Korea’s already progressive methods of gathering information and following the virus into a new data distribution system that covers together cellphone location data and credit card archives.

The Epidemic Investigation Support System (EISS), presented in late March, effectively detached technological hurdles to deliver that information amid authorities, by edifice on the country’s ‘Smart City’ data system.

That platform was initially designed to permit local powers that share urban planning information, from populace to traffic and pollution, by uploading data in Excel spreadsheets and other set-ups. Now it formulae the foundation for a data clearing house that has turbocharged South Korea’s retort to the virus.

Though personal location and credit card data has been accessible for use by South Korean health detectives for years, prior systems obligatory physical paperwork to appeal the data before it was posted to logical software. That took sleuths about two to three days to fold a patient’s personal data to suggestion their contacts.

The new system digitizes the whole process, counting the needs, and can decrease that time to less than an hour, bureaucrats say. Detectives can use it to examine broadcast routes and notice probable contagion hotspots.

The system has had some teething glitches, and has involved censure on confidentiality grounds, but it has been a main issue in the East Asian nation of 52 million holding virus contagions at a comparatively low 11,122, as of Thursday, with just 264 deaths.

It got its initial test with an eruption in May, drew to the Itaewon district of Seoul known for its nightlife, which finished up contaminating at least 206 people

The Epidemic Investigation Support System (EISS), offered in late March, professionally got rid of technical problems to sharing that particulars in between establishments, by refining the nation’s ‘Smart City’ information system.

That system was primarily industrialized to let local authorities share urban development details, from population to web traffic as well as air pollution, by placing info in Excel spread sheets as well as numerous other forms. Now it grows the construction for an info eliminating home that has really turbocharged South Korea’s response to the virus.

Though discrete area as well as charge card information has actually been willingly accessible for practice by South Korean wellness secluded detectives for numerous years, preceding systems called for physical documents to ask for the info prior to it was available to rational software application. That took private detectives relating to a couple of days to collect an individual’s individual material to map their get in touches with.

The brand-new system digitizes the entire process, comprising of the demands, as well as can minimalize that time to much less than an HR, establishments claim. Sleuths can apply it to assess broadcast courses as well as spot most probable contagion hotspots.

The system has really had some teething issues, as well as has truly carried in objection on personal privacy buildings, though it has really been a noteworthy consider the East Asian country of 52 million upholding virus contagions at a fairly reduced 11,122, since Thursday, with simply 264 fatalities.

It got its early examination with an incident in May, charted to the Itaewon area of Seoul called for its night life, which wound up soiling a minimum of 206 individuals.

Earlier epidemiological survey means earlier detection of possible patients, which assistances cover the feast of the virus even when there is a huge bunch of contagions or people who are asymptomatic, as we have seen in the nightclub eruption,” voiced Yoon Duk- hee, manager for communicable condition administration in Gyeonggi Province, a mainly booming area near Seoul.

Yoon specified she as well as numerous other establishments used the EISS to measure the actions of the original individual exposed in the Seoul bar incident, as he saying a diversity of zones containing of 2 bars as well as 3 bars.

The system is still reliant on on human beings consecutively it to accept as well as acquiesce info, which can take about hold-ups. And occasionally, glitches over private privacy as well as guard have really produced gain entree to being so incomplete that some local establishments stated they needed to be contingent on old approaches.

Earlier epidemiological survey means earlier detection of possible patients, which assistances cover the feast of the virus even when there is a huge bunch of contagions or people who are asymptomatic, as we have seen in the nightclub eruption,” voiced Yoon Duk- hee, manager for communicable condition administration in Gyeonggi Province, a mainly booming area near Seoul.

Yoon said she and other the ruling classes used the EISS to hint the activities of the first person noticed in the Seoul nightclub outbreak, as he went to a number of places counting two nightclubs and three bars.

The system is still dependent on persons working it to favor and upload data, which can lead to postponements. And in some cases, anxieties over confidentiality and safety have led to entree being so limited that some local bureaucrats said they had to count on old-fashioned approaches.

When one more infected person – a 25-year-old man identified as Incheon Patient 102 – told health establishments that he did not have a job, city administrators said they went to the police since the info they wanted to check was not offered in a timely manner on the EISS.

The phone’s location data showed he was an educator at a private academy, where succeeding contact drawing and challenging revealed at least 30 other people had been diseased, with some of his students and their close relative.

There were limits to the system,” said an authorized at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), on disorder of secrecy because he was not official to express to the media. “We are now annoying to speech them after the Itaewon outbreak.”

While another dirtied individual – a 25- year-old guy termed Incheon Patient 102 – well-versed wellness authorities that he did not have an effort, city establishments specified they mosted probable to the establishments subsequently the details they wanted to inspect was not willingly obtainable in a quick way on the EISS.

The phone’s area information revealed he was a teacher at a personal academy, where following call mapping as well as checking wide-open a minimum of 30 other persons had actually been impacted, containing of a insufficient of his acolytes as well as their moms and dads.

There were limits to the system,” said an authorized at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), on disorder of secrecy because he was not official to express to the media. “We are now annoying to speech them after the Itaewon outbreak.”


The EISS was mutually industrialized by the KCDC and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, with the aid of the Korea Electronics Technology Institute (KETI). Numerous details of by what means the system functions and some confines of the program have not beforehand been stated. A technical paper on the system was available in a public health journal only on Wednesday.

Authorities’ power to get info was recognized by a 2015 law named the Infectious Disease Prevention and Control Act, familiarized after the country was knockout by Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

The law lets South Korean health bureaucrats to entree a wide range of individual data, counting cellphone location info and credit card dealings, without a law court order.

Though numerous republics are trail biking to develop smartphone apps that can hint the interactions of patients without skimpy full personal info, South Korea has fake ahead with a more aggressive system.

The EISS lets an authorized investigator to log in to a protected web portal and send info requests about exact inveterate cases. Police agencies must support needs for location data from three communications workers, while the Credit Finance Association grips endorsement for info from 22 credit card companies.

When an appeal is accepted, chosen officials at the companies obtain alerts on their phones and computers. They then post persons’ data in an Excel spreadsheet.

The EISS allows an official private detective to visit to a safe internet website as well as send out particulars stresses about specific authenticated situations. Police companies should receive ask for area evidence from 3 telecoms drivers, while the Credit Finance Association manages approval for facts from 22 charge card business.

When a demand is putative, allocated establishments at the business get notifies on their phones as well as computer systems. They after that succumb people’ info in an Excel spread sheet.

The private detective after that has brief convenience to the particulars to carry out assessment. There are usually greater than 10,000 zone information factors for every separate in a common 14- day period being assessed, rendering to the KCDC.

An EISS internet portal understood by Reuters exposed a communicating map presenting discrete activities, with each area information factor viewing whether it was accrued using charge card or mobile phone.

The central government rights gain admission to be incomplete as well as expert private investigators should stay via an online personal network (VPN) as well as use two-factor confirmation to stop defense defilements.

Bureaucrats well-versed Reuters that programmers of the scheme had really supposed about using controlling video as well as also face salutation as component of the material the system might gain entree to, though chose versus it due to individual privacy problems. Though CCTV is not opened or available to the EISS website, wellness private investigators still usually utilize such video to path situations.

The agent then has provisional admission to the evidence to behavior examination. There are typically more than 10,000 place data points for each person in a typical 14-day period being studied, rendering to the KCDC.

An EISS web portal gotten by Reuters presented a communicating map showing patient actions, with each location data point representing whether it was composed via credit card or cellphone.

As per the government, entree is limited and legal detectives must log in through a virtual private network (VPN) and use two-factor verification to stop security breaches.

Bureaucrats told Reuters that designers of the system had careful using shadowing footage and even facemask recognition as part of the data the system could access, but chose against it because of confidentiality concerns. While CCTV is not retrieved or uploaded to the EISS portal, fitness investigators still extensively use such footage to track cases.

We invested more time excruciating over confidentiality than on emerging the system,” said Park Young-joon, a manager at the KCDC.

Still, the scheme has elevated anxieties over its use of secluded data.

It signifies an infrequent non-judicial, non-consensual gaining of site data, with no legal mistake for the data collected,” told Deborah Brown, a digital rights investigator with the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch. “There is an anxiety that the door is exposed to abuse.”

At a countrywide or universal degree, lives are more vital than separate privacy, stated a 64- year-old South Korean feminine that asked just to be familiar by her last nameJang “Personal discretion is imperative, but stopping a transferrable disease is even more so.”

Some of local wellness private sleuths stated that convenience to the EISS has really been also incomplete or also slow-moving, so they have really returned to normal means of requesting for information.

One Incheon wellness establishments acknowledged Reuters the city did not formerly apply EISS on Incheon Patient 102 since it took also drawn-out to get the separate signed up.

Those glitches have really assumed that been distributed with by changes that will surely license regional businesses to sign up persons themselves instead of waiting on the KCDC, specified Kim Jae- ho, a supervisor at KETI.

Travel particulars as well as scientific leaflets might be comprised in the system, 2 persons trade with the job well-versed Reuters South Korean wellness ministry establishments Yoon Tae- ho specified at a depressed that they are likewise seeing using Bluetooth as well as QR codes to log zones individuals see – such as bars.

There was “an apathy in managerial procedure,” the early KCDC establishments informed Reuters “But now I am busy with calls from the native managements about how to use the system.”


South Korean bureaucrats told Reuters that data on nearly every person established to have the virus is arrived into the system to allow cross-referencing and examination of probable hotspots. The KCDC weakened to say how many grassroots data has been calm in all.

People do not have any choice whether their data is collected and accessed, but officials told Reuters that authorities notify anyone whose information is gathered and that all the data will be deleted when the virus is contained.

At a national or global level, lives are more important than personal privacy, said a 64-year-old South Korean woman who asked only to be identified by her surname Jang. “Personal privacy is important, but preventing an infectious disease is even more so.”

Some native health investigators held that access to the EISS has been excessively limited or too sluggish, consequently they have gone back to outdated habits of requesting data.

One Incheon health authorized told Reuters the city did not first use EISS on Incheon Patient 102 because it took too long to get the person listed.

Those anxieties have since been spoke by vicissitudes that will let local activities to register patients themselves rather than coming up for the KCDC, said Kim Jae-ho, a director at KETI.

Travel info and medical archives may be additional to the system, two people employed on the project told Reuters. South Korean health ministry official Yoon Tae-ho said at an assembly that they are also looking at the usage of Bluetooth and QR codes to log places people visit – such as nightclubs.

There was “an inertia in administrative process,” the first KCDC official told Reuters. “But now I am busy with calls from the local administrations about how to use the system.”