March 22, 2012 12:05
Dr. John Linton of Yonsei University's Severance Hospital in Seoul became a naturalized Korean citizen on Wednesday. Also known by his adopted Korean name In Yo-han, the 53-year-old waved the Korean flag as he was granted citizenship at a ceremony held at the Justice Ministry in Gwacheon, south of Seoul.
"I am now a real Korean! I am really happy. Let's live happily together!" he said in Korean with a typical southern dialect. Linton, who comes from a prominent family of missionaries, was born in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, and was raised in Korea.
Linton was granted citizenship after the government recognized his contributions to Korean society. These include efforts to introduce a small ambulance that can provide emergency aid by navigating through Seoul's narrow streets, as well as Linton's devotion to helping North Koreans.
Some individuals have been granted Korean citizenship in the past in consideration of the contributions made to the country by their ancestors, but Linton's naturalization sets a new precedent in terms of someone receiving the honor by virtue of their own achievements.
Linton's family has a long track record of dedication and service to Korea, ranging from evangelism and education to medicine. His great grandfather and missionary, Eugene Bell, was the first of his ancestors to set foot on Korean soil back in 1897 and preach across the country. Linton's father, Hugh, fought during the Korean War and took part in Gen. Douglas MacArthur's famous landing at Incheon. He died in a car accident in 1984 while preaching in the countryside.
In 1996, Linton's mother, Royce, received the Hoam award for her 40 years of medical service in Korea. She gave him the W50 million (US$1=W1,128) she received as part of the award and told her son to use the money to donate an ambulance to North Korea. The following year, Linton visited North Korea with the aid of his brother, Steve, a missionary who runs the Eugene Bell Foundation. Since then, the brothers have been offering their medical services to the North by donating medicine for tuberculosis and medical equipment.
Linton is allowed to retain his U.S. citizenship, although he can no longer exercise his rights as an American citizen in Korea under Seoul's revised law on naturalization and citizenship that allows dual citizenship for adults.
"I really am a Korean, as I was born in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. I always felt I was lacking something while living in Korea, but I am happy because I have become 100 percent Korean now," he said.
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