Monday, January 11, 2016

The Code

Dear Korean,

I've been trying to sign up for Korean websites, but they always ask for this weird number sequence and stuff like your ID. I have no idea what to enter and I'm wondering what they are asking for and why.


Short answer: the number is the Resident Registration Number, or 주민등록번호.

Every Korean is given an RRN when their birth certificate is issued. RRN is somewhat like the Social Security Number in the United States, but the use of RRN in Korea is a bit more comprehensive than the SSN use in the United States. As Claudia noticed, it is fairly commonplace for Korean websites to require an RRN for registration.


Can a non-Korean receive an RRN? Nope. But it is possible for non-Koreans to receive an equivalent number, called Foreigner Registration Number (외국인등록번호). Here is the catch, however: FRN is only for non-Koreans who are staying in Korea for more than 90 days, i.e. non-tourists who need to maintain a life in Korea in the form of opening bank accounts, etc. It is true that more and more Korean websites are refraining from asking for an RRN for registration, or have set up a separate track of registration for non-Koreans. But if you are a non-Korean who wants to join a Korean website, and the site requires an RRN, you are out of luck.

But things may change down the line. Late last year, the Constitutional Court of Korea invalidated a portion of the Resident Registration Act that forbade Koreans from changing their RRN, and gave the National Assembly until 2018 to pass a new law that is consistent with its decision. Currently, there is a great deal of public discussion in Korea about how RRN is an outdated system that puts too much personal information at stake. In the new system, RRN may disappear entirely; even if it does not disappear, the RRN use may be limited to a more limited set of purposes compared today. Until then, stay tuned.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. Seems like a colossally bad idea to use RRNs in the first place - it's just screaming for identity thief. It'd be like being required to input your social security number, drivers license (or state id) no., and your passport no. all combined. I'm hardpressed to think of any US websites that require a valid SSN to register...

  2. I recall a couple of years ago, there was word about how it became illegal for sites to ask for your ID number, so many sites and stores who have their costumers registered for points, have changed their policies, but many other sites still kept that ID thing there.

  3. It's getting much better but on top of the restrictions The Korean mentioned, some sites will still not accept FRNs, only RRNs. Both numbers start with birth dates but the digits following those in the RRNs of adult Koreans are either a 1 (men) or a 2 (women); my FRN starts with 5 (male resident foreigner) and some sites won't accept this as a valid ID number. My son is a citizen but his starts with a 3 because they've started a new series recently, I believe. I don't know if his would work or not.

    All that said, things are MUCH better now than were 10+ years ago and I rarely have any difficulties anymore. Can't say what it's like for non-resident foreigners though...

  4. Sorry, but what is the purpose of entering RRN numbers to just sign up to websites? Avoiding from bad comments?


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