Foreign religious activists awarded Korean citizenship
The Justice Ministry awarded Korean citizenship to three foreign religious activists Thursday in recognition of their long-running contributions to the country, officials said.
Missionary Wesley John Wentworth Jr. from the United States, Sister Cristina Evelina Gal from Romania and Ven. Seollae from Nepal were given South Korean citizenship as special contributors to the country.
They can keep both their original and Korean nationalities, according to the ministry.
Wentworth, an 86-year-old whose Korean name is Won Yi-sam, first visited South Korea in 1965 as a construction engineer and built Christian hospitals in several cities across the country, including Seoul and Gwangju.
He has stayed in Korea since re-entering the country in 2003 and worked to promote studies on Christianity and establish Christian groups here.
The Romanian nun was dispatched to the Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul in 2007 and has since worked to build shelters for migrant workers and children, and give education and medical support to them at pastoral care centers in the country.
Since 2018, the 45-year-old has worked at the Diocese of Jeju, helping Yemeni refugees' resettlement.
The 45-year-old Nepali monk, whose real name is Tamang Dhawa Chhiring, was invited to Korea to practice a monastic life by the Jogye Order, the country's largest Buddhist sect.
He built a Nepali sanctuary at Bongguk Temple in northern Seoul to help Nepali immigrants adapt to Korea and promote Korea's Buddhist culture.
After receiving the citizenship certificate, the three said they are proud to become Korean.
"Living here for about 50 years, South Korea has become my home," Wentworth said, expressing hope the country will have a brighter future.
Since adopting the system in 2012, the Justice Ministry has granted citizenship to a total of 12 foreign special contributors who have had a positive influence on the country for a long time, including John Alderman Linton, an American-Korean doctor who reportedly developed Korea's first locally manufactured ambulance in 1992 and has worked to eradicate tuberculosis in North Korea.