SOS Public Relief Service for Children's Safety
Ministry of Public Administration and Security

The Problem

The SOS Pubic Relief Service has been introduced to protect children from various crimes with non-verbal reporting to the police for location tracking, which differs from the existing reporting system based on verbal communication.

1) Nation’s recognition for the need to protect the weak and vulnerable like children

In a modern society, crimes against people are rapidly increasing. With the development of information and communication technologies (ICT), people are inundated with stimulating materials in daily living and sharing crime related information has become easier than ever. In particular, as education and norms that have existed within communities disappear, the possibility of occurrence of crime is on the rise.
The biggest victims of increasing criminal activities are those who are vulnerable to crime such as children. These days, children spend more time among strangers without their guardians, making them become targets to potential crime. In addition, there are many places that are out of people's sight, which further boosts the risk of crime.
Recently, there have been many severe crimes against children in Korea, making citizens feel insecure. In this context, people are taking more interest in systems that can protect children against potential crime.

2) Need for alternatives that overcome the limitation of the existing police reports

The Korean government has been making ceaseless efforts to find ways through which children in dangerous situations can get prompt response from the police or their guardian. For instance, guards were stationed around schools at all times and children were asked to carry a device that makes a loud sound by pushing a button in an emergency to notify others of their situations.
However, such methods lacked systems for children to ask for help in a dangerous situation that occurred outside schools and secluded areas. Currently Korea’s police operates the 112 Service, a U.S. equivalent of the 911 Service for crime reports. However, victims are unable to report their situations and locations by voice to the police promptly and effectively with the offender present in the crime scene.
Hence, the Korean government has developed a system that children can use to inform the police of their situation and location in an emergency without the offender being aware of the situation. The SOS Public Relief Service is the world's first reporting system in which the police instantly track down the location of the reporter once the reporter pushes a button on his/her mobile phone, a smart phone or a special device, which in turn ensures prompt police response to the emergency.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
With the implementation of the SOS Public Relief Service, not only has psychological effects to suppress the desire to commit crime increased, but also contributed to 13 cases of crime prevention in just 9 months, indicating great satisfaction of users on the new initiative.

1) 500,000 service users registered in 9 months, 13 cases of arrests and rescues

The public has recognized the breakthrough for crime prevention of the SOS Public Relief Service, using cutting-edge information technology and contributing to the arrest of offenders. To date, 500,000 people have registered to use the service (2,000 per day) in just 9 months, which includes 260,000 students or 21% of the total elementary school students (1,260,000) in the three service regions (Seoul, Gyeonggi and Gangwon Provinces), clearly demonstrating keen public interest. The SOS Public Relief Service is also expected to substantially reduce the concerns of working parents on their children’s safety, especially in situations where they are not able to look after their children.

Furthermore, despite a not-so-long period of nine months and a narrow coverage of service in the capital region, the SOS Public Relief Service made significant accomplishment, making a total of 13 cases of arrests and rescues (8 arrests and 5 rescues). For example, on 27 May, 2011, a child saw a man attempting to sexually assault an elementary school girl, and she reported the scene using the SOS Public Relief Service of her mobile phone. The police instantly tracked down the location and arrived at the scene, thereby preventing further damage.

2) Strong satisfaction of citizens, service users and service providers

In December 2011, a survey was conducted on 3,000 people, including citizens, service users and police officers to assess the satisfaction level of the SOS Public Relief Service. As a result, 93.2% of citizens and 90.7% of the SOS Public Relief Service users answered that the service is helpful in an emergency. And 95.7% of service users said that this service will prevent potential crimes. In addition, 77.7% of the police officers (service provider) indicated that the SOS Public Relief Service helps their investigation and expected that it will further assist in arresting criminals. And 83.5% of police officers said that it has effects to prevent crimes expressing their positive attitude toward the service.
Furthermore, there have been many positive media coverage (19 television reports and 23 newspaper articles). Joongang Daily, one of major newspapers in Korea, reported: “Policies that meet citizens' demands, like the SOS Public Relief Service, indeed receive public support without putting any pressure on the people and expect the government to formulate such citizen-oriented policies."

3) Anticipated psychological effect to suppress potential crimes

It is believed that potential criminals would have considerable psychological pressure on the fact that the victim can report to the police to come to the scene for making arrest without the offender actually knowing. Sujeong Lee (a criminal psychology specialist and a professor at Gyeonggi University) said that public security systems like the SOS Public Relief Service have significant impact on crime prevention, especially crimes committed by strangers.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The SOS Public Relief Service has been created through the collaboration among public agencies, civil organizations and private sector, as an innovative alternative to children’s safety policy by integrating policies of different government ministries.

1) Coordination by Korea’s Ministry of Public Administration and Security, integrating policies of relevant government ministries

In Korea, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the National Police Agency, and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology have been in charge of promoting children’s safety policies by protecting them from domestic violence, kidnapping, sexual assault, and school violence, respectively.
The SOS Public Relief Service, coordinated and implemented by the Ministry of Public Administration and Security with reflection of the characteristics of each ministry's policy, holds great significance in terms of efficient integration of national policies for children's safety that were under the jurisdiction of three different government organizations.
Since the launch of the SOS Public Relief Service, the abovementioned government authorities organized a task force, making continuous efforts to identify potential problems during policy implementation and to improve the service.

2) Active participation of civil organizations

Opinions from civil organizations related to public safety, such as Citizens' Coalition for Safety, one of Korea's representative groups with 20,000 members for public safety, were reflected in the policy direction from the initial planning stage. They recommended creating a database for contact information of guardians and places frequently visited by children (e.g., afterschool classes), which would help the police narrow down the scope of search investigation in emergency situations. Furthermore, other civil groups, such as Green Mothers' Association (an organization composed of school parents to improve children’s safety) with 490,000 parent members, accounting for approximately 16% of the 3 million parents of elementary school students nationwide, suggested some practical plans from the educational and promotional aspects of service. For example, they suggested teaching children the use and rules for this system using multimedia contents such as introductory animation from the policy user standpoint, ultimately contributing toward early establishment of service.

3) Voluntary cooperation by the private sector (mobile communication service providers)

All mobile communication service providers in Korea (SKT, KT and LGU+) have been actively engaged in the implementation of the SOS Public Relief Service. They offered technical solutions for the execution of the service, including provision of location information and development of police report applications for smart phones, as part of their social responsibility activities, thereby significantly contributing to the establishment of the service.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The SOS Public Relief Service is provided as free service and maximizes user convenience, promoting a stable operation through gradual expansion of the service, at the same time, offering customized services depending on the features of communication devices.

1) Offering the SOS Public Relief Service on communication devices for free

For the convenience of users including children, the service is provided at no cost. The service is available free of charge on a mobile phone by simply registering to use the service. On smart phones, free applications are available on open markets. In addition, children in lower-income class are provided with a special device for free, and they are also provided with the monthly service fees. Such financial support will further promote fair service distribution in the field of safety and welfare.

2) Silent report using abbreviated dialing maximizing user convenience

If victims cannot make verbal communication or recognize his/her location in a dangerous situation, he/she is not likely to be able to ask for help using the existing 112 Service, which only files reports based on verbal communications. In particular, compared with adults, children cannot report the situation they are faced with and their location in an effective way. Using the SOS Public Relief Service, which has been designed to overcome the limitation of the existing 112 Service, allows the service users to make reports in any situation without talking over the phone so that the police can respond to the situation more effectively. The reports can be made by simply pressing an abbreviated preset key on a mobile phone.

3) Phase-in the service for stability

For the successful implementation of the SOS Public Relief Service, the Korean government conducted a pilot service in the Gangwon Province rather than launching it nationwide. The service has been expanded gradually based on the performance evaluation. To date, the service is available exclusively to children and minors, aiming to minimize problems that may occur during the implementation of service and to improve weaknesses for more stable operation.

4) Offering a customized service suitable for different types of communication devices

This service is three-fold; it is available on the traditional mobile phone, smart phone and special device for users to choose depending on the type of devices they have. In particular, the special device was developed especially for children and the elderly who have difficulties in using a mobile/smart phone, thus maximizing the benefits of service.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
Three strategies were developed in the policy planning stage, field applicability in the implementation stage, stabilization of service in the expansion stage, and full-fledged service in the maturity stage.

1) Phase 1: Introduction of the SOS Public Relief Service including a pilot project

In the introduction stage, the field applicability of a policy idea to build a new report system was verified. In 2010, the project was for the first time conducted in the Gangwon Province as a pilot run, in order to give sufficient time to street level police officers to be able to overcome the concerns over the new service using information technology, as well as technical challenges. In particular, with the help of the private sector such as mobile service providers, identifying the exact locations of all communication base stations in the areas to improve the accuracy of positioning. Also, street-level police officers were trained continuously on the service and conducted field demonstrations, aiming to minimize problems in operating the service.

2) Phase 2: Expansion stage including the nationwide implementation

In the second phase, the focus was on the stability of the SOS Public Relief Service and preparing to expand the service nationwide. Plans to improve problems had been developed, and policy errors have been minimized by incorporating field feedback. In 2011, the project started to expand nationwide, mainly on the capital region. The report rate and the police mobilization rate were analyzed and the service users, mainly children, were educated on the prevention of false reports in order to minimize the burden of the police. A service operation manual for police officers was developed to improve field suitability. In addition, efforts to improve quality of the service, by enhancing the accuracy of positioning, have been made through technical discussion with mobile service providers.

3) Phase 3: Mature stage of the service with projects supporting the underprivileged

In the third phase, the focus is on eliminating the blind zone of this service and completing the expansion of the nationwide service, thereby improving the level of completion of the policy. In December 2011, programs have been developed to support the low income group. 20,000 children receiving basic living allowance that cannot afford mobile phones were provided with the free special device, as well as monthly service fees. Furthermore, plans have been devised to provide this service to the disabled persons, who are vulnerable to danger. The service will be available anywhere in Korea by the end of 2012, and by 2015, the system will be developed as a comprehensive system covering not only crime but disaster prevention.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Passive attitude of users and concerns raised by police, the two main barriers in the service implementation stage, were overcome through system improvement in position errors.

1) Overcoming the passive attitude of users

In the early stage of the service implementation, people did not have full understanding of contents of the service and were not very active in joining the service. However, thanks to active promotion of the service, people are now better responding to the purpose and the effects of the policy. Initially, some users expressed concerns over personal information such as children's school name, address and telephone numbers being disclosed or the location of their children being monitored. To resolve such problems, the Korean government has actively publicized that personal information is collected only through the official application form with informed consent and will be strictly managed by the National Police Agency's 112 Service. Moreover, the public has been informed that children's locations are identified only in urgent cases.

2) Developing plans to resolve problems suggested by the service provider (police)

Police officers in the front line were concerned about the burden put on their work due to false reports, given that they should instantly check the reporter's location and immediately require dispatching patrol cars.
To overcome this issue, education for children on the prevention of false reports has been conducted in collaboration with schools. In addition, a manual for the 112 Service to distinguish false reports and corresponding action plans has been developed to minimize unnecessary police mobilization. For example, if the center receives an uncertain report, the center will call the parent through the contact number stored in the database and check the current situation of their child. Therefore, most of false reports are identified and concluded in the report receiving stage.

3) Develop plans to supplement the system including position errors

In the current technological level, the location system using mobile devices has inevitable position errors. To minimize position errors, a consecutive positioning system that checks the location of the victim in a two or three minute interval has been introduced. In addition, when receiving service applications, information on children's main movement lines is stored in the database, which is used as subsidiary material to help the police investigation.
Furthermore, plans to reduce position errors have been developed in cooperation with mobile service providers and positioning information providers, which have reduced the existing position error based on base stations (500m) by 30%. Plans to further increase the accuracy of positioning is under review.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The Korean government took various measures to build a cost-efficient system, utilizing skills and manpower from the private sector for service implementation.

1) (Finance) Identify a rational solution to efficiently promote the policy at minimum costs

During the pilot project, 16,000 USD was invested in the program that displays the location of reporters on the 112 report center. The cost could be minimized by establishing the system utilizing existing 112 Service and all available resources for positioning technology from mobile service providers.
In expanding the service nationwide, no budget has been invested since such tasks have been promoted in connection with the standardization of the 112 Service. The standardization project aimed to integrate the program of the 112 Service, which was separately operated by each police station and local police agency, into a standard program led by the central police agency. The project was originally intended to be promoted by 2014. However, in order to early establish the SOS Public Relief Service, a budget of 44 million USD was secured in 2012. Furthermore, 5 million USD have been invested in providing 20,000 underprivileged children with the special device.

2) (Technology) Active use of positioning and system establishment technologies of private companies

A system to operate the SOS Public Relief Service has been established using Korea's advanced information technology. Establishment of the system included the use of positioning technologies, the development of smart phone applications and the special device and the standardization of the 112 Service. For this purpose, the Korean government cooperate with private companies including smart phone operation system (OS) providers such as Google , Apple and the other system developers.

3) (Organization and manpower) Establishing an inter-organizational cooperation system and use the existing human resources of the police

To stabilize the SOS Public Relief Service, a task force composed of relevant organizations such as the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is in operation. In terms of service delivery, the Korean government is utilizing 17,000 police officers without increase in manpower.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The Korean government will continue to make efforts toward institutionalizing the SOS Public Relief Service and expand related infrastructure to promote the service as a public safety system, in, turn, sharing the good practice with the international community.

1) Continuous efforts for institutionalizing the service including formulation of management regulations and securing budget for infrastructure expansion

To institutionalize the SOS Public Relief Service, which is being promoted as part of inter-ministerial coordination, service management regulations will be established in 2012. Infrastructures for the nationwide operation of the service will be created through the standardization of the 112 Service and location errors will be further reduced through continuous technical cooperation with mobile service providers. Moreover, the purpose and accomplishments of the SOS Public Relief Service will be publicized and citizens' satisfaction level will be regularly monitored for the promotion of more citizen-oriented services as well as incorporating their opinions in the decision making process.

2) To promote the SOS Public Relief Service as a security service for all citizens by expanding the subject and functions

At present, the SOS Public Relief Service is available to elementary school students and minors. The service will be gradually expanded and will be available to all citizens by 2015. In addition, the scope of this service will go beyond crime prevention, such as disasters and other emergencies. It is expected that this service will be very useful in the event of flood or earthquake, where an urgent report is required, or in the collapse of building, where tracking down people's location is very difficult. Indeed, the SOS Public Relief Service has been used in five cases, where a missing child was found and a child trapped in an elevator were rescued, clearly illustrating its potential to be utilized in emergent situations such as disasters or accidents.

3) Efforts to share and disseminate the service worldwide

The Korean government is willing to share the system technology and operation techniques with countries intending to implement similar services and hopes to offer the service to developing countries as Korea’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) project. For regions with less developed IT infrastructures, an emergency report system that allows location will be applied to some areas on a trial basis and special devices will be provided.
With regard to this, the Minster of Public Administration and Security presented the SOS Public Relief Service in a meeting with interior ministers of Italy and Turkey in October 2011. Currently, the Korean government is formulating plans to promote the SOS Public Relief Service through international conferences and seminars to introduce the new initiative to other countries.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The SOS Public Relief Service has been created as part of national efforts to promptly respond to fast changing policy landscape. This service has gained consensus from service providers and private companies, gradually making its way toward stable operation.

1) Advanced response to changes in policy environment

As crimes against children continue to increase, the Korean government has introduced the SOS Public Relief Service using the latest information technology to promptly respond to protect citizens who are vulnerable to crime. Citizens, service providers, and private companies have reached consensus to support the efforts to effectively respond to fast changing policy landscape by adopting new systems for the protection of children.
Also, the Minster of Public Administration and Security gave in-depth briefing of the service through TV and newspaper interviews, thus receiving positive reports from the media and recognition from citizens. This served as reference to convince the National Assembly and budgeting authorities, hence the budget of 44 USD million for the standardization of the 112 Service could be secured.

2) Gaining sympathy from police officers, service providers regarding the importance of the SOS Public Relief Service

To overcome the concerns of police officers who are the service provider, street-level police officers in police substations and stands received training on the purpose and objective of the service and their opinions were collected. As a result, they agreed that the SOS Public Relief Service is essential in protecting the citizens, such as children, who are vulnerable to crime.

3) Strengthening partnerships with the private sector

In terms of operating the SOS Public Relief Service, positioning services of private companies have been used and mobile service providers as well as other private companies have also contributed substantially to the implementation of this service as part of their social responsibility activities. In addition, opinions from policy consumers have been fully reflected, for example, collecting opinions from security-related civil groups and parents' associations to further promote consensus on the SOS Public Relief Service and could responded to any unforeseen problems in advance.

4) Phase-in the service

The Korean government has conducted the pilot project for the SOS Public Relief Service and is seeking to gradually expand the scope and subject of the service based on a long-term master plan to continuously respond to the shortcomings of the service, rather than focusing on the short-term accomplishments, hence trials and errors of the project could be minimized.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Public Administration and Security
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Daesung Yang
Title:   Deputy Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +82-2-2100-2902
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   209 Sejong-daero(Sejong-ro), Jongno-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Postal Code:   110-760
City:   Seoul

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