4 diplomatic posts ended over kids’ citizenship

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4 diplomatic posts ended over kids’ citizenship

Four diplomats posted in European, Middle Eastern and African countries were summoned back to Korea between the end of last year and early this year.

Korean ambassadors and consul generals usually spend three years at an overseas post, but the four diplomates, who took their posts in 2014, did not even complete two years as ambassadors overseas before being replaced over March and April.

The reason behind the early end to their posts was because their children held dual citizenship.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the beginning of the year decided diplomats with offspring who hold dual citizenship will be excluded from being considered for overseas ambassadorial or consular general posts.

Initially, the ministry began to exempt from consideration officials who themselves held dual citizenship in 2014, but that was expanded this year for overseas consul general posts, as well.

Such measures were implemented by the Foreign Ministry in order to address the concerns that dual citizenship could lead to the evasion of mandatory military service for men. But the issue is that the four ambassadors who were called back to Seoul were unrelated to military evasion issues.

The son of one such ambassador who was called back gained dual nationality because he was born while his father was posted overseas. And this son had already completed his mandatory military service in Korea and was currently employed at a finance company overseas.

The other three ambassadors had daughters with dual citizenships, so are unrelated to the issue of evasion of military service.

The issue of dual nationality of diplomats is often raised by the National Assembly whenever there is an audit and inspection of the Foreign Ministry, but there are lawmakers who also point out it is problematic to restrict the posts of qualified individuals in such a manner.

“It’s a problem if someone evades mandatory military service by having multiple nationalities,” said Rep. Lee Tae-kyu, a first-term opposition People’s Party lawmaker with the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee, “but it’s also a problem if someone is excluded as an ambassador or consul general for matters unrelated to such evasion.”

He continued, “This is a retrogressive measure when it is the global trend to open up civil servant positions to foreigners if they are competent,” adding that he will officially raise this as an issue in the National Assembly’s audit and inspection of state affairs.

Because this measure adheres to the principle that any diplomat with offspring who holds dual citizenship will not be able to take an overseas post without being providing an opportunity to explain the situation, they are forced to give up ambassadorial posts even if they meet the qualifications. Some choose to work at lower posts despite their rank.

This issue is not just limited to diplomats. At the beginning of the year, there was controversy when Lee Joon-sik, education minister and deputy prime minister for social affairs, during his nomination process, was revealed to have a daughter born in the United States who had held dual citizenship and lost her Korean citizenship. His daughter is in the process of regaining her Korean citizenship.

BY YOO JEE-HYE, AN HYO-SEONG [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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