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Absence of regulation bills to hobble multiple nationality law

All Headlines 16:58 December 30, 2010

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Dec. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's revised immigration law allowing multiple nationality citizenship for talented overseas Koreans and foreigners will take effect on the first day of 2011 as scheduled, but its full-scale enforcement will be delayed due to parliament's failure to approve related bills, officials said Thursday.

The related bills designed to regulate exploitation of the revised system have been pending in the National Assembly due to a fierce budget row between rival parties, said the officials.

The revised immigration law will be implemented on Saturday to allow qualified individuals to retain multiple citizenships if they pledge to give up their rights as foreign nationals while in the country. In the past, the government required those born in foreign countries to choose one nationality when they turn 22 or automatically lose Korean citizenship.

Since the promulgation of the new immigration law in May, the Justice Ministry has recommended government agencies to amend related laws to restrict dual citizenship holders from working for organizations handling the nation's security or intelligence matters and set limits to prevent them from exploiting the system to evade taxes or mandatory military service.

With the absence of related laws, a group of legislators in July proposed seven bills that limit recruiting multiple citizenship holders as government officials, soldiers and ambassadors and restrict their rights regarding election and foreign investment.

"Although revised bills on government officials have been discussed in parliament's public administration committee, they have not been submitted to the judiciary committee as the National Assembly wasted time without any result," a government official said, asking for anonymity. "We hope the revised bills can be handled in the extra parliamentary session in February," the official said, noting that other bills are stalled as well.

With the new immigration law soon to be implemented, experts stressed the need to make regulations to keep up with the changing trend.

"If multiple citizenship holders enter the nation only during election periods to use their right to vote and run for an office, it goes against people's sentiment and would not contribute to national interests," said Lim Ji-bong, a law school professor at Sogang University.

Although multiple citizenships are given on a limited basis for those who complete military service, Yoon In-jin, professor of Korea University, said, "It could be unavoidable to limit multiple citizenship holders' working for government officials in areas regarding national security."

The new immigration law excludes those who are sentenced to seven or more years in prison for heinous crimes such as murder, armed robbery, rape and drug-related offenses, and denies citizenship for children whose mothers intentionally gave birth in a foreign country that awards birthright citizenship, like the United States.

All able-bodied men holding South Korean citizenship must also fulfill their mandatory military service.

ejkim@yna.co.kr
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