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Court upholds constitutionality of military service for foreign-born men ahead of citizenship renunciation

All News 10:15 March 01, 2023

SEOUL, March 1 (Yonhap) -- The Constitutional Court has upheld the constitutionality of the law requiring military service for men born to South Korean parents temporarily staying overseas before they can renounce their Korean citizenship.

According to legal sources Wednesday, all eight Constitutional Court judges rejected a 23-year-old man's petition questioning the constitutionality of the Nationality Act forcing conscription on people in his situation.

The man was born to South Korean parents in the United States while they were studying there. He held dual South Korean and U.S. citizenships, and his application to renounce his South Korean nationality in 2018 was rejected.

Under the Nationality Act, a man born in a foreign country to South Korean parents with no intention to obtain permanent residency in that country must first fulfill his military duty before being allowed to renounce his South Korean citizenship.

This photo taken Feb. 25, 2023, shows the Constitutional Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)

This photo taken Feb. 25, 2023, shows the Constitutional Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)

The man argued that the definition of intention to obtain permanent residency status was ambiguous. However, the Constitutional Court ruled that the particular clause in the Nationality Act is necessary to prevent men with dual citizenship from renouncing their South Korean passport to dodge mandatory military service.

The court added that the clause wasn't so ambiguous that it would cause law enforcement agencies to make arbitrary decisions.

"Without the Nationality Act, there would be no way to impose a duty to fulfill military service when a man renounces his South Korean citizenship on the pretext of his birth in a foreign country," the court said.

The Constitutional Court has also unanimously rejected another man's claim of unconstitutionality of the Nationality Act's clause forcing men to have a permanent address in a foreign country in order to renounce their South Korean citizenship.

The court said there is no ambiguity to the clause on a foreign address, as the man claimed. The court also said attempts to renounce citizenship without an overseas home to avoid duties can infringe on the basic principles of existence and maintenance of the nation.


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