October 19, 2009 12:57
The government wants to submit a revision to the nationality law to the National Assembly that would permit dual citizenship for more people than any previous plan. The bill will free men with dual citizenship who have completed their military service from the requirement to give up either of their passports.
Under the current law, Koreans with foreign citizenship are required to opt for one within two years of acquiring foreign citizenship, and Koreans with dual citizenship below the age of 20 have to select one passport before they are 22.
The announcement was made by a senior official on Sunday. The Justice Ministry and the Presidential Council for Future and Vision are discussing the revision with the Ministry of Government Legislation with view to announcing it by Nov. 11.
The revision is designed to expand the availability of skilled workers and help cope with a rapidly aging society. For women, two formulas are under study, according to the official. One is unconditional dual citizenship, and the other, for the sake of fairness, calls for two years of public service such as English teaching.
All Koreans with dual citizenship will be required to fulfill their civic duties like pay tax, and failure to do so will cost them their Korean citizenship.
"The dual citizenship issue is being mulled not simply as a legal problem but in the perspective of a comprehensive policy vis-à-vis the low birth rate, aging and economic vitality," the official said. "We plan to announce other comprehensive measures to deal with such issues as well."
Korea's birthrate is the lowest in the world at 1.13, according to recent figures by the National Statistical Office. By 2050, the population is projected to decline by 6.41 million and the proportion of over-65s will be the highest in the OECD. That could damage national competitiveness, and the government wants to ease ways for Korean expats or foreigners to become Korean nationals to deal with the problem.
The original revision bill, announced in May but dormant since then, permitted dual citizenship only for skilled foreigners or Koreans adopted overseas, apparently for fear of protests. "Developed countries have resolved the low birthrate problem through immigration," said Kang Man-soo, the chairman of the Presidential Council on National Competitiveness. "We too need to take measures to cope with the declining workforce and low birthrate, including granting dual citizenship, to encourage Korean expats or foreigners to work in Korea."
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