The case for dual citizenshipThe government plans to increase its tolerance of Koreans who want to hold dual citizenship, following the global trend. More than 100 countries allow their people to have multiple nationalities. Israel has allowed dual citizenship for its people since the state was founded in 1948. The dual citizenship system has played a significant role in reinforcing solidarity among overseas Israelis and encouraging them to return to their mother country. China and Taiwan also bestow citizenship to ethnic Chinese, in acknowledgement of their economic capacity on the global stage. Germany is no different. Yet we maintain the ban on dual citizenship amid our outdated obsession with homogeneity and the general belief that dual citizenship is a status for a privileged class. As a result, more people are shedding their Korean citizenship every year than are seeking to become Korean.
Under current law, any Korean with dual citizenship must choose one nationality when they reach 22 years of age. Young men must report to the authorities their choice of Korean nationality within two years of completing their military service or lose their Korean citizenship. But the government is planning to regard those who complete their military service as Korean citizens even if they fail to report it to the authorities. In that way, the authorities can prevent misuse of dual citizenship to dodge military service and at the same time encourage talented people born overseas to become Korean nationals.
As society increasingly becomes more diverse through the growing number of international marriages, the government needs to be more aggressive in easing restrictions on citizenship. It could consider allowing foreign nationals who have been living and working here for a certain period of time to become residential citizens. It could also expand a special return program for the descendants of Korean independence fighters, the number of whom hovers at just around 100. In this way, we distinguish ourselves from North Korea, which does not offer this courtesy.
We live in an age of global nomads and the need for borderlines diminishes by the day. The number of overseas Koreans has already reached 7 million. All Korean citizens should have the same rights and responsibilities. Those of us who are citizens should be more welcoming to anyone who wants to assume these benefits and duties to become Korean.