By Lee Tae-hoon
The National Assembly passed a revision Wednesday that will permit multiple citizenship to people meeting certain conditions, as part of efforts to prevent a brain drain and bring in talented foreigners.
Under the revision, exceptionally talented foreign nationals will be able to obtain Korean citizenship without renouncing their own.
Similar to naturalized foreigners, foreign residents with dual citizenship will be exempt from military service.
Previously, the Korean government neither allowed dual citizenship nor immediately granted the privilege upon application.
Only those who had lived in Korea for five years or longer, or were married to Korean nationals and had stayed here for over two years were allowed naturalization.
Dual citizenship will be granted on the condition that those concerned take an oath not to exercise their rights as a foreign national while staying here.
Foreigners married to Koreans are included on the list of people eligible for dual citizenship, along with Koreans who gained foreign nationality through marriage or adoption.
Also included are overseas Koreans over 65 years old and Koreans who gained dual citizenship at birth, if they apply for the dual citizenship and take the oath before turning 22 years old.
Unlike foreigners, young Korean males will be required to fulfill compulsory military service.
However, the government will not give the privilege to so-called "anchor babies," whose mothers deliberately give birth in a country offering birthright citizenship ― typically the United States ― before returning to raise their children in Korea.
Critics, however, say the legislation may trigger a backfire from the Chinese community here as the government excluded Chinese, who have lived in Korea for several generations, from the list at the last minute before proposing the bill to the Assembly.
Some 20,000 Chinese living here have refused to be naturalized because they strongly insist on keeping their original citizenship to maintain their cultural identity and keep relations with their ancestral homeland.
Foreigners, who have divorced with Koreans but have lived in Korea with a child of their former spouse, are also ineligible for dual citizenship.