‘It is unfair to reject passport reissuance for spelling change‘
By Kim Rahn
A rose by any other name would smell as sweet but what if it was spelled differently?
The Central Administrative Appeals Commission under the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission ruled Friday it was wrong for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to refuse to issue a new passport to an applicant who wanted to change the spelling of his name in English from the previous passport that had expired.
A 32-year-old man spelled one of the characters in his name “Jai” in his previous passport. But he wanted his new passport to read “Jae,” the same spelling as his diploma and English tests.
The ministry refused to issue a new passport, reasoning that Jai can still represent the name character as the pronunciation is almost the same as Jae, an official Rominization for the Korean character. It said changing the English spelling based on language test grade sheets was not legitimate in the changes stipulated by the law.
So the applicant filed a petition with the commission. They ruled in favor of him.
The commission said Jae is the right spelling according to the official Rominization rule; his diploma and other documents are written as Jae, and he is unlikely to commit crimes or do other illegal acts through the spelling change.
“He is in his early 30s, and may face troubles overseas if he keeps using the English spelling of Jai. Considering all these factors, the passport issuance refusal was unjust,” the commission said.
A commission official said changing the English spelling of a name on a passport should be allowed in limited cases to secure credibility of the identification and to prevent illegal acts. “But a passport is also a tool to realize the freedom of residence and migration and the right to pursue happiness, guaranteed by the Constitution. So, restricting the freedom and the right should be as minimized as possible,” he said.
According to the Law on Passports revised last September, an English name spelling change is possible in cases such as: when the English pronunciation is clearly different from the Korean pronunciation; when a person has used a different spelling from that on the passport for a long time for overseas employment or study; when the spelling of a family name is written differently among family members; or when the spelling has a negative meaning in English-speaking countries.