SOS Public Relief Service for the Safety of Children and Women
Ministry of Public Administration and Security

The Problem

The SOS Pubic Relief Service has been introduced to protect children and women from various crimes, allowing non-verbal reporting to the police, as well as location tracking in emergency situations.
1) Children and women vulnerable to crime
Children and women, who physically weak, often times become the subjects of many crimes. Offenders frequently target them with confidence that they can overpower the weak. In Korea, criminal acts against children and women, including sexual assaults, have more than doubled over the last decade, which has increased general public’s anxiety. In an effort to prevent such crimes, there has been a growing need for a system that can protect the vulnerable while restrain/suppress criminal intents.
2) Need for a prompt and easy reporting system for emergencies/dangerous situations
In a modern society, people spend significant amount of time with strangers, and guardians cannot keep their eyes on their child(ren) or family 24/7. Moreoever, there are many places in urban areas that are out of public sight, which further boost the risk of crime.
In this context, the Government of the Republic of Korea has introduced a new initiative to inform the police of dangerous situations more promptly and easily by using the nation’s advanced information and communication technologies (ICT) environments and well-penetrated mobile devices. Korea has strong wireless communication infrastructures with national mobile phone and smart phone penetration rates of 105% and 60%, respectively in 2012.
3) New initiative to overcome limitations of existing police report system.
Currently, Korea's police operate 112 Service, a US equivalent of the 911 Service for reporting crimes and emergencies. However, victims are unable to verbally report their situations and locations to the police both promptly and effectively when the offender presents in the crime scene. To protect children, guards were stationed around schools at all times and children were advised to carry a device that makes a loud sound once a button is pressed in an emergency to notify others of their situations. However, such method lacked customized functions for endangered children who need help outside schools and in secluded areas.
Hence, the Korean Government has developed a system that children and women can use to inform the police of their situation and location in an emergency that leaves the offender unaware of. The SOS Public Relief Service is a reporting system by which the police can immediately track down the location of the reporter once he/she presses a button on his/her mobile phone, a smart phone or a special device, ensuring prompt police response to emergencies.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Since the implementation the SOS Public Relief Service, it has not only had psychological effects of suppressing the criminal intent, but also contributed to arresting all offenders reported through the system, leading to high satisfaction rate among users of the initiative.
1) Easy and instant reports ensuring 100% arrest rate
Having started as a pilot service in selected regions in 2010, the SOS Public Relief Service has gradually expanded its coverage nationwide through preparation, field practices, user trainings, and public promotions. People are now increasingly aware of the service for its breakthrough case in the area of crime preventionutilizings IT and for its reported cases of arrests and rescues. To date, 730,000 people have registered to use the service, including 400,000 students or 20% of the total elementary school students (2,000,000) in the service areas (7 out of 17 cities and provinces in Korea), clearly demonstrating keen public interest in the service. Based on this strong support from citizens, the service will become available nationwide from January 2013.
Furthermore, as for the crimes reported through the SOS Public Relief Service during its pilot period, the arrest rate was 100 percent. .. To date, the service has made a total of 25 cases of arrests and rescues (20 arrests and 5 rescues). For example, on 27 May 2011, a child reported the scene where a man attempted to sexually assault an elementary school girl e using the SOS Public Relief Service of the mobile phone. This enabled the police to instantly track down the location and arrive at the scene, making prompt response possible.
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 their satisfaction levels 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 was helpful in an emergency. Also, 95.7% of service users said that the service plays the role of preventing potential crimes. In addition, 77.7% of the police officers (service provider) indicated that the SOS Public Relief Service helps their investigation, and expected 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.
A number of positive media coverages have been written with regards to the service. (24 television reports and 148 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 assumed that potential criminals would suffer considerable psychological pressure from the fact that the victim may report to the police who will make it to to the scene unnoticed by the offender 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. A pilot project conducted in Seoul, the capital region of Korea, demonstrated that the service worked, reducing the outbreak of sexual assaults in the region by approximately 15%.

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) Integration of government safety policies
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 reflecting the characteristics of each ministry's policy, holds great significance in terms of efficient integration of national policies for children's safety, which were previously under the jurisdictions of three different government organizations.
Since the launch of the SOS Public Relief Service, the abovementioned government authorities have organized a task force and held weekly meetings, making continuous efforts to identify potential problems during policy implementation, and to improve the overall quality of 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 stage of planning. They recommended creating a database for contact information of guardians and places frequently visited by children (e.g., afterschool classes), which will 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 several practical plans from the educational and promotional aspects of service. For example, development of teaching tools on rules of the system using multimedia contents such as intoructory animation from the policy use standpoint were suggested ultimately contributing to 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 to maximizes user convenience, promote a stable operation through gradual expansion of the service, and at the same time, to offer 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.
2) Silent report using preset dialing to maximize user convenience
If a reporter cannot make verbal communication or identify his/her location in a dangerous situation, it would be difficult ask for assistance by using the existing 112 Service, which only files reports through verbal communications. In particular, children, compared with adults, are often less capable of explaining their situation and location in an effective way. SOS Public Relief Service, which has been designed to overcome the limitations of the existing 112 Service, allows users to make reports in any situation without talking over the telephone for the police to respond to the case more effectively. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security, the National Police Agency and mobile phone manufacturers signed a memorandum of understanding in July 2012 and agreed to devise a system through which the reports can be made by simply pressing a volume key located on the outside of a smart phone for a couple of seconds. In November 2012, a smart phone with the new function was officially launched.
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 part of the country 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 (May 2010 - March 2011)
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 (April 2011 - November 2011)
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 (December 2011 - December 2012)
In the third phase, the focus is on eliminating the blind zone of this service and completing the expansion of the nationwide service. In December 2011, various programs were developed to support the low income group. 20,000 children receiving basic living allowance who cannot afford mobile phones were provided with the free special device, as well as monthly service fees. From January 2012, the SOS Public Relief Service will be available to children and women in all parts of Korea, who wish to use the service.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Passive attitude of users as well as 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 disclosure of personal information such as children's school name, address and telephone numbers 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) Appropriate measures taken to prevent false reports (raised by service provider)
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 such issues, the police, in collaboration with schools conducted educational programs for children on the prevention of false reports, which has resulted in a continuous decline in the number of false reports. 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 saved 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 maintains inevitable position errors. In order to minimize these position errors, a consecutive positioning system that checks on 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, a special application for smart phones will be developed by the end of 2012. This application works between the report center and base stations, automatically providing information to the police through the geographical positioning system (GPS) upon the receipt of report, thus ensuring more accuracy in terms of positioning data rather than simply relying on the information provided by the 112 Service. In addition, mid to long-term initiatives, in cooperation with mobile service providers, are expected to further increase the accuracy of positioning even if the reporter is inside a building using wireless fidelity(WIFI).

(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 can 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 the 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, 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 expedite the establishment process 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 is in operation which is composed of relevant organizations, including the National Police Agency and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. In terms of service delivery, the Korean government utilizes 17,000 police officers without any increase in manpower.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The Korean Government makes continuous efforts to further promote the SOS Public Relief Service into a universal public safety system and shares its experiences and good practices with the international community.
1) Developing the service into a universal public safety system with expanded service functions
The Korean Government aims to further expand the functions of the SOS Public Relief Service, with a goal to make it a universal public safety system, possibly serving as an exemplary practice for the public sector by utilizing location-based technology. Also, it can be applied to a range of public and private arenas, including counter-disaster, healthcare and welfare under the consent of the user to check his/her positional information. For instance, the SOS Public Relief Service can be promoted as a useful rescue system in the event of disasters, where emergency reports are urgently required. The purpose and accomplishments of the SOS Public Relief Service have been publicized and citizens' satisfaction levels are regularly monitored in order to promote more citizen-oriented services, as well as to incorporate public opinion into the decision making process.
2) Specialized school safety program to protect children
The SOS Public Relief Service has particular benefits as a tool to ensure children's safety in school. In the event of an accident occuring in the school, students themselves can report their situation to the police and their guardians, which enables them to receive assistance instantly. Also, children's guardians can take advantage of the U-Relief device to check the location of their commuting child(ren) thus preventing potential accidents. The Ministry of Public Administration and Security in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology educate the children to use the service and provide those from low income households, who are unable to afford a cellphone or smartphone, with free U-Relief devices.
3) Efforts to share and disseminate the service worldwide
At an international level, the Korean Government continues to share the system technology and operation techniques with countries interested in implementation of similar services. Korea has introduced the SOS Public Relief Service to many overseas authorities responsible for e-government and public security through engaging in various cooperation activities. As many countries in the world are struggling to fight sexual assaults against children and women, they have shown interest in the emergency report system. In particular, some Latin American countries, which have strong initiative to keep public order and security, have expressed strong interest in introducing the SOS Public Relief Service to their governments
In 2012, the Korea-Latin America Public Administration Consulting and the Korea-Central America Public Security Cooperation Seminar were held in the Dominican Republic and Korea, respectively. These events were designed to share the experiences of participating countries in public security services and to discuss issues for future cooperation. In addition, the Korean Government dispatched delegates for public security cooperation to Guatemala and Costa Rica in an effort toexchange opinions on emergency report systems like the SOS Public Relief Service. Korea plans to formulate concrete plans to apply the service to countries where the establishment of social safety network is a pressing need.

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 provided 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 duly 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 concerns of service-providing police officers, 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. Also, for instance, opinions from policy consumers have been fully reflected, collecting opinions from security-related civil groups and parents' associations to further promote consensus on the SOS Public Relief Service and could respond to any type of 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:   Central Government Complex #209, 209 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu
Postal Code:   110-760
City:   Seoul

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