Singer Yoo Seung-jun's Visa Battle Drags on

  • By Lee Hyun-yi

    July 11, 2019 13:30

    A lengthy legal battle surrounding Korean-American singer Yoo Seung-jun, also known as Steve Yoo, shows no sign of ending.

    The Supreme Court on Thursday sent the case back to a lower court, overturning rulings which banned him from Korea because he took U.S. citizenship to dodge mandatory military service here.

    Yoo Seung-jun

    But the top court said it is "unlawful not to issue a visa" to him based on nothing more than an order by the Justice Ministry to ban him some 17 years ago.

    "The Korean Consulate in Los Angeles refused to issue a visa simply because there was a government decision on an entry ban," the court said. "Instead... the consulate should have deliberated the case... based on the relevant laws for overseas Koreans which stipulate that even those who give up Korean nationality to dodge mandatory military service must be given a visa once they turn 38, when the compulsory military duty is waived, unless they pose a threat to the national interest and public safety."

    The court also said the laws which are inclusive in nature require a caution when dropping an entry ban indefinitely.

    Under Thursday's ruling, the consulate in Los Angeles should screen Yoo's visa application again, leaving open the possibility for him to return to Korea. After the ruling, Yoo's lawyer read a statement from his client expressing gratitude to the court and vowing to repent for the rest of his life.

    Yoo, who was popular in the late 1990s, repeatedly promised to report for duty but in January 2002 effectively evaded the obligation last minute by choosing to take U.S. citizenship. He fled to the U.S. by special permission from the Military Manpower Administration and submitted written pledge to return but failed to do so. Amid the ensuing public furor the Justice Ministry banned him from entering Korea.

    He filed a lawsuit against the Korean government after a visa application was rejected in 2015. Lower courts ruled in favor of the government saying that allowing Yoo to return could damage the morale of young men who serve in the military and encourage draft dodgers.

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