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Posted : 2008-05-08 17:06
Updated : 2008-05-08 17:06

Dual Nationality May Be Allowed to Prevent Brain Drain


Minister of Justice Kim Kyung-han
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Staff Reporter

The government is reviewing ways to allow Korean men who have completed their mandatory military service here to hold dual citizenship, Minister of Justice Kim Kyung-han said Thursday.

Answering lawmakers' questions at the National Assembly, Kim said ministry officials were looking into the revision of the current law governing nationality, which requires Koreans to hold a single nationality.

``In an era of globalization, dual nationality is a necessary measure to prevent a brain drain,'' he said.

The ministry plans to allow Korean women to have dual nationality, if they complete a required period of community service.

Under the current law, Koreans seeking citizenship abroad are automatically deprived of their Korean citizenship upon obtaining a foreign one. The law also stipulates that foreigners who are seeking Korean citizenship will be required to answer whether or not they will give up their foreign citizenship within six months of earning their Korean one.

The requirement makes it difficult for overseas Koreans with foreign citizenship to make decisions when they are offered jobs in the country, and many of them reject such offers because of strict regulations.

Over the past decade, about 170,000 people gave up their Korean citizenship for a foreign one upon the request to choose one or the other. Only 50,000 people sought Korean citizenship.

The regulation was seen as a stumbling block as President Lee Myung-bak pledged his government would hire talented overseas Koreans for public sector jobs.

Targeting mainly Korean-Americans including adoptees abroad, the ministry announced in April that it would revise the law so that these people can work here with dual nationality.

The ministry said it would hold a series of hearings and town hall meetings with experts and stakeholders to discuss the issue by July and then submit revisions to the parliament by November.

Kim said his staff members are also looking into the ways to prevent any loopholes.

Rep. Kim Choong-whan of the governing Grand National Party called for follow-up measures for the ministry's plan.

The lawmaker said the government should introduce necessary legislation as soon as possible.

Despite the shared view, legal experts made the point that the revision would be more complex than expected as there are a variety of factors that need to be considered in the revision process.

Dual nationality has become a hot potato issue as Korean men, who have temporarily held citizenships status of two countries, chose to keep their foreign citizenship in an attempt to dodge military service.

hkang@koreatimes.co.kr

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