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Dual Citizenship–It’s Complicated August 3, 2011

Filed under: KAAN — Elizabeth @ 11:19 PM

At KAAN, I attended the session on dual citizenship.  It was very informative, and I took a lot of notes.  However, it was the last session on Saturday and I was exhausted and a bit loopy and you know I told you about my claw hand, so the information I am about to impart to you should not be taken as the absolute gospel (although I’m pretty sure most of it’s right).

So that’s my disclaimer.

When I realized that Matthew had the option of dual citizenship, my immediate thought was that I wanted him to have it.  If only because it’s his right.  Hello?  He’s Korean.

As I learned last weekend, though–it’s just not that simple.

The presentation was given by Dae-Won Wenger, a Korean who had been adopted into a Swiss family.  He now works with GOA’L and is one of the few (maybe 11?) Korean adoptees who hold dual citizenship.

It soon became clear to me that attaining dual citizenship is something that only makes sense for an adoptee who wants to live in Korea (at least for a short time).

He began by telling us the advantages of having dual citizenship.  They include:

  • access to websites (apparently in Korea, you have to have some sort of code to access certain websites, and only citizens get this access)
  • you can avoid policies directed against foreign nationals
  • you have easier access to credit cards, loans, and mortgages
  • you could vote
  • you could run for political office, which leads me to wonder if a Korean adoptee could return to Korea and run for president (because they can’t run for president here!)

Now for the disadvantages:

  • there are certain scholarships that are available to adoptees and foreign nationals (such as scholarships to go to Korea to study for a semester) that would not be available to citizens of Korea
  • restricted access to diplomatic services (if you get in trouble with the law there, the US Embassy won’t help you out)
  • language barrier–all of the paperwork you need to complete for citizenship is in Korean
  • travel restrictions.  Korean citizens are expressly forbidden from entering North Korea.  You could get into a lot of trouble for that.  (but really, are Americans allowed to go there either?  Just curious.)
  • Job limitations.  If you wanted to go teach English in Korea, Caucasian english teachers get the best salaries, then maybe Korean adoptees or Koreans living overseas get a bit less pay, Korean citizens get the least pay.
  • effect on dependents.  If you lived in Korea as foreign nationals, your kids could attend an international school that takes place in English.  Korean citizens do not have access to international schools.
  • National Security Laws–you must watch what you say, especially in regards to North Korea or communism
  • No access to tax incentives aimed at foreign nationals.

So if an adoptee applies for dual citizenship, the government refers back to the adoptee’s original family registry.  If the family registry is intact, the adoptee (if male) would still have a duty to perform military service.  If there is an orphan family registry, the adoptee would be exempt from military service or at most have to perform some minor civil defense maneuvers.  I am under the impression that there is a law pending that will discontinue any military obligations of Korean adoptees who gain dual citizenship.

As far as the National Health Insurance in Korea, foreign nationals can access it after living in Korea for 3 months.  Almost all Korean citizens have full access to the insurance.  And foreign nationals pay nearly 3x as much for the insurance as citizens do.

Other issues are that the adoptee would have 2 different passports with 2 different names (because they would have to use their Korean name for the Korean passport since the original family registry is being accessed to allow citizenship).  This (while legal) can cause a lot of problems and delay during travel.

This was one part that I wasn’t completely clear on–It is my impression that while the adoptee may have dual citizenship, their future children are born as Korean citizens and all military obligations would apply to their children.  I didn’t think to ask about what if the adoptee was married to an American citizen–would that matter?  Or what if the adoptee held dual citizenship but resided in the US.  So I’m not totally clear on that.

I do know that to apply for citizenship (as an adoptee), there is no language or history test, but there is a background check.  Also, before you can apply, you must have an F4 Visa and be living in Korea (and I’m not sure on the timeline, but I think you have to have been living there for at least 6 weeks….either 6 weeks or 6 months).

Long story short, it’s not something to do just for a lark or just because.  Regardless, dual citizenship cannot be attained until the adoptee is at least 18 so they can make these important decisions for themselves.

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3 Responses to “Dual Citizenship–It’s Complicated”

  1. Becky Says:

    Thank you so much for posting about this, I have been really wanting to learn about dual citizenship. My initial thought was the same as yours, I wanted Joshua to have it, but I see it is much more complicated than that, and not just due to military service.

    My understanding is that Americans are allowed to go to North Korea, they just need to get permission from the North Korean government. I have friends who were able to get permission and have also heard of others getting permission to establish a business there.

  2. Karen Says:

    Thanks for this post! We’ve slowly been discovering some of it- like our Korean teacher realizing that we can’t use her favorite Korean kids website because we don’t have a citizen id. 😦

  3. Summer Says:

    I don’t understand all the ins and outs of dual citizenship. It would be great for my son to maintain Korean citizenship but what scares me is that since the US doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, my son would have no assistance or protection from the US government while in Korea. If living or traveling to Korea with Korean and US citizenship, the US considers him a Korean citizen only while in Korea. He wouldn’t even be able go to the US embassy, and is offered no protections by the US government while in Korea. Frightening if something bad were to happen to him while in Korea.


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