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Man allowed S. Korean citizenship, after waiting 3 years to serve in military

Feb. 12, 2024 - 16:25 By Yoon Min-sik
(Herald DB)

A Seoul court recently ruled that a US-born man whose circumstances thwarted him from serving in the mandatary military service should be allowed to have South Korean citizenship.

Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of a 31-year-old man who challenged the Seoul Immigration Office's 2022 rejection of his application for citizenship. Previously a dual citizen of South Korea and the US, he in 2022 submitted a written pledge not to exercise his US nationality while in the country and submitted his application, based on the legal clause that allows those who fulfilled their mandatary military duties to retain dual citizenship.

The man in 2017 received orders to work as social service personnel -- a form of alternate service for those unable to serve in the military -- but was kept on standby for three years due to the excessive number of personnel in the field.

He was then categorized as a member of wartime labor service personnel, a reserve force required to serve in non-battle duties only during wartime.

But immigration rejected his citizenship application, saying that he had not fulfilled his military duty because he had not actually served in his post.

"The plaintiff was unable to serve in the military due to reasons for which he is not responsible. There is no reason to believe that his intent was to dodge his duties, based on the fact that he has never evaded avoided summons from the country or tried to delay his enlistment," the court said in its ruling. "The Seoul Immigration Office's decision would be penalizing the plaintiff for a problem caused by the state's distribution of its military personnel, and is thus unjust."

While the immigration office said that the plaintiff should have actively sought out districts that did not have sufficient social service personnel, where he could have worked, the court shot down its claim.