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[Opinion] Double Standards on Dual Citizenship

Posted March. 09, 2003 22:42,   


Countries like Portugal, Spain, France and Britain, once colonial powers seeking to show domination over other countries, decided long ago to approve of dual citizenship. They apparently aimed to protect their own people living in the colonies even after those countries became independent states. Taiwan and Mexico recognize dual citizenship respectively to protect ethnic Chinese and Mexicans living in the United States. Israel also allows for dual citizenship to leverage economic resources held by Jewish people around the world.

This country, however, does not recognize dual citizenship. Acquiring dual citizenship itself does not seem a particular problem given the fact that people stay abroad a long time for study or have children in foreign countries while working in overseas company branches. The problem is that there are some unscrupulous people, who enjoy every benefit of dual citizenship and avoid their duties at the same time. Military duty is a case in point. For young men who acquired U.S. citizenship before the age of 18, they can avoid military duty by giving up their Korean nationality before they turn 18, that is, before they are subject to laws surrounding military service.

People with dual nationality periodically receive booklets explaining how to evacuate in time of war, which means they are among the first to be protected when war breaks out. When they go to college in the U.S., they are treated as Americans in terms of student loans, tuitions and scholarships. If they choose to go to college in Korea, they are able to enter school without taking tests. This is why young rich couples are rushing to fly over to the States to get dual citizenship for their babies.

Controversy on dual nationality has, in fact, been repeatedly surfaced at a time of government reshuffling. Park Hee-tae, now acting president of the opposition Grand National Party, had to step down a week after he was appointed as Minister of Justice, due to criticism about his daughter`s dual nationality. During the DJ government, Minister of Education Song Ja and Prime Minister nominee Jang Sang also could not keep their high-ranking government posts due to the dual nationality of their children. This time it is the new Minister of Information and Communication Jin Dae-je. Jin is now under fire after a shocking revelation that his family was long recorded as residing in a foreign country while they were living in this country, not to mention draft-dodging suspicions on the part of his son. President Roh and Chong Wae Dae, however, have decided to stick to their decision. And it seems what bothers us is not `dual citizenship’ but `dual standards.’

Jung Jin-hong, Guest Writer, Professor at Korea Arts School, atombit@netian.com