[EDITORIALS]On giving up citizenshipThe controversy over the citizenship renunciation issue continues, with the revision to the law due to take effect soon. Internet boards are being flooded with postings criticizing those who renounce their Korean citizenship. Some media outlets are reportedly looking into whether members of the nation’s leadership circle have children who have given up their citizenship.
The gist of the change to the law is that it bars Koreans born abroad from giving up their citizenship until they have performed, or been excused from, their military service ― if their parents were overseas with no intention of living there permanently at the time of their birth.
The idea, in other words, is to prevent holders of dual citizenship from shirking their military duties by blocking the source of the problem. If people who were born abroad because their parents deliberately left the country to give birth ― or because their parents were studying or working abroad ― want to receive the benefits of being an overseas Korean while shirking their responsibility to the country, then those practices must be corrected. It is in this sense that many Koreans agree with the purpose of the legislation.
Nevertheless, there are quite a few problems with the law. The first is that it acknowledges the right to choose citizenship while denying it to those in a certain age group. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that the right to change citizenship should not be refused. That is why some argue that the government is infringing upon individual rights, using military obligation as a weapon. There is also the problem of gender discrimination. A man cannot choose his citizenship until he fulfills his service, while a woman born under the same circumstances may do so until the age of 22.
If parents renounced a child’s citizenship when he was young, regardless of his opinion, in order to spare him military service, then they deserve criticism. News reports say 119 of those who gave up their citizenship after the draft of the revised bill was suggested at the National Assembly last November were the children of prominent figures in society. This also calls for an angry response.
But we must not condemn those who gave up their citizenship because of inevitable circumstances. If evasion of military duty is evident, the necessary punishment can be imposed. Instead of driving the issue emotionally, we need a logical approach befitting the national interest.