Ko Kang Ho v. ROK
Supreme Court rejects "right" to renounce nationality
By William Wetherall
First posted 10 August 2014
Last updated 10 August 2014
Can a mononational renounce nationality?
In other words, is statelessness a human right?
Hangyore The word, and the newspaper, for "one [Korean] people"
Ko Kang Ho Kyoto dentist wants to throw off yoke of "nationality"
Can a mononational renounce nationality?
In other words, is statelessness a human right?
The word, and the newspaper, for "one [Korean] people"
The Korean term 한겨레 (hangyore) consists of "han" meaning "one, same, entire" -- and "kyŏre" meaning "descendants, brothers, people, nation". It is used in lieu of Sino-Korean expressions like "tongp'o" (동포 同胞) meaning "same wombers" or "brothers" and "t'ongil minjok" (통일 민족 統一民族) meaning "single [mono] [racioethnic] nation".
The term is also the name of the left-of-center pro-unification ROK newspaper 한겨레 (Hangyŏre). The paper was called 한겨레신문 (Hangyŏ Shinmun) [Hangyore News] when established in 1988. It dropped the "Shinmun" from its name in 1996.
The newspaper was conceived as an alternative to conservative papers like Dong-a Ilbo (동아일보 東亞日報) and Chosŏn Ilbo (조선일보 朝鮮日報), and the right of center paper Chungang Ilbo (중앙일보). In 1999, Hangyŏre launched 한겨레21 (Hangyŏre 21), a current-events weekly magazine, to combat what it regards as ROK's parochial nationalism.
Hangyŏre minimizes the use of alphabetic and hangulized foreign expressions in a purely hangŭ paper that, unlike its rivals, eschews all use of Chinese graphs and reads horizontally instead of vertically. Such typographical standards express the newspaper's own "one nation" ethnonationalism.
Web versions include, in addition to the Korean edition 한겨레, an English edition The Hangyoreh, and a Japanese edition The Hangyoreh Japan (ハンギョレ).
Ko Kang Ho
Kyoto dentist wants to cast off yoke of "nationality"
On 31 March 2014, the web edition of Hangyŏre 21 published an article under the following title and subtitles (see Issue No. 1004, viewed 2 September 1914, my romanization, Sino-Koreanization, and English translations).
나는 꿈꾼다 국적 없는 자유를
Na-nŭn k'um k'unda kukjŏk ŏpsnŭn chayu-rŭl
私는 꿈꾼다 国籍없는 自由를
[Give me] the no-nationality freedom I dream of
Below the title is a photograph showing a young woman smiling as she sits at a table before an ROK flag, which t is spread out on a table. According to the caption, she is a "marriage [im]migrant woman" (결혼 이민자 여성) [結婚移民者女性] who had naturalized in ROK.
The article is not about the woman, Nor is it about people who naturalize or otherwise change their natonality or acquire multiple nationalties.
Immediately below the photograph, enclosed in a bordered box and highlighted in red, is the editor's introduction to the article. The introduction follows the "naturalization" theme of the caption.
Today, people are abandoning their original nationality for the nationality of another state for all manner of reasons. States vary considerably in how they treat their nationals, and some nationalities are more coveted by people seeking a new life than others. As dual nationality increases, some states are finding it more difficult to the passports of some countries are more coveted than those of others passports find it easier to travel than those of other passports.
Someone had abandoned Russian citizenship (nationality) [시민권(국적) shimingwon (kukjŏk)] [市民権 (国籍) shiminken (kokuseki)] and naturalized in Czechoslovakia, because a Czech passport allows one to enter some 160 countries without a visa.
Another person, who had married a French person and was living in France, had abandoned U.S. nationality because the United States had passed a new law -- FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) -- which gave the U.S. government the right to claim, as a fine, up to 50 percent of the balance of any overseas bank account a U.S. citizen failed to report for income tax purposes.
Yet another person had been a dual national of the United Kingdom and Turkey. Turkey requires that someone with a military service obligation pay a large sum of money in order to be relieved of the obligation. The dual national had lived in the UK for 13 years and had married, was 38 years old, did not wish to serve in the Turkish army, and didn't have the money to pay for the waiver -- so abandoned Turkish nationality.
As of 2013, about 3.2 percent of the world's population -- some 232 million people -- were living in a country other than the country in which they were born -- according to the Hangyore 21 editor's introduction. The increase in permanent residents whose country of residence and nationality are different, and of multiple nationals, is weaking the boundaries of the "국민국가 (State)" ("Kungmin Gukka (State)") ["国民国家 Kokumin Kokka (State)"].
Following World War I, the "State" -- a political entity comprised of a government, military, and police -- became the foundation of world order, and to lead a decent human life, one had to be affiliated with a country. Residents of colonies, who had lost their country, grieved. Chosenese (조선인 Chosŏnin 朝鮮人) desired an idependent state -- and got one.
Then in 2004, Kwok Hŏ Bŏm (권혁범Kyon) published a book titled "Escape from being [as] a national" (국민 으로 부터 의 탈퇴 Kungmin ŭro put'ŏ ŭi t'alt'oe) [国民으로 부터 의 脱退], which alleged that "statism" had weakened as "national interests" seemed to have little bearing on the improving the lives of nationals.
A 5 February  survey asked 5,014 people in their teens and older, "If reborn, would you [like to] be born in the Republic of Korea?", and 56.9 percent said "No". They gave as reasons excessive competition (61.1 percent), fierce entrance exams (46.1 percent), and chasing specs (41.4 percent).
In 2012, some 18,000 people abandoned ROK nationality. Not everyone is given an opportunity escape from the Republic of Korea. Most countries, including ROK, welcome only people with economic abilities -- or "superior human resources" like An Hŏsu (안현수). A poor [im]migrant has to endure years of suffering in order to settle in another country.
Readers would recognize the name of the world's most accomplished short track speed skater, who on 29 December 2011 naturalized in Russia, thus abandoning his ROK nationality, in order to compete on the Russian team at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi -- as Viktor Ahn. Ahn had been a 3-gold-medal winner on the ROK national team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, but injuries prevented him from competing in 2010, and years of difficulties with ROK's skater union led him to decide that he would be better off competing under another flag. He had also considered the United States, but it was easier to naturalize in Russia.
The editor's introduction segues to the situation of wanting, but being unable, to live -- not as a national affiliated with an ordinary state, but as an "individual" coexisting with people in a neighborhood. There is an ROK Korean who dreams of such a life. In 2011 he reported to [ROK's] Ministry of Justice (법무부 法務部) that he did not hold ROK nationality. And he did not have the nationality of another country. However, the Ministry of Justice did not accept his declaration, and so he filed a lawsuit at the Seoul Administrative Court seeking to nullify the disposition. It was the first lawsuit in the country to advocate the freedom to be stateless.
Hangyore 21 acquired a copy of the court records and spent several months trying to find the complaintant. Finally, in February , it met the protagonist -- in Kyoto, Japan.
Most striking subhead
The most striking subhead of the Hangyore 21 article reads as follows.
국민도 아닌 외국인도 아닌
The first part of a long call-out attempts to makes sense of the subhead like this
일본 국민은 아니다. 그러나 일본 국민처럼 세금을 낸다. 국민과 외국인 사이의 어떤 존재다.
Ilbon kungmin-ŭ anida. Gŭlŏna Ilbon kungmin ch'ŏrŏm segumŭl naenda. Kungmin'-gwa oegugin sai ŭi ŏt'ŏn chonjaeda.
[I] am not a Japan national. But like a Japan national [I] pay taxes. What kind of existence [is this] between a Japan national and an alien.
In fact, Ko Kang Ho is an alien. Under Japanese law, he is an alien because he doesn't have Japanese nationality. He could naturalize, but he prefers -- for his own reasons -- not to be Japanese -- and, for that matter, not to be any nationality.
Ko Kang Ho pays taxes because -- like most aliens in most countries -- aliens pay taxes just like nationals. Neither Japan, nor Koreans in Japan, are exceptions.
The article has 2 long footnotes.
Special Permanent Residence qualification
The 1st note (*) concerns Special Permanent Residence qualification (특별영주자격 T'ŭbyŏl Yŏju Chajyŏk 特別永住資格). The note describes this qualification (status) as a status of residence attributed to "Chosenese, Taiwanese, et cetera" who have been residing in Japan from before 1945 and their descendants. At the time of liberation, it says, Chosenese living in Japan had reached 2,300,000. In 1952, when the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect, those who had possessed Japan nationality became aliens and faced discrimination and the threat of expulsion. In 1965, ROK and Japan concluded a basic [normalization] treaty, and only Chosenese who had ROK nationality were recognized as the "Agreement Permanent Residence Right" (협정영주권 Hyŏpchyŏng Yŏju Kwon 協定永住権)" [under the status agreement signed at the same time as the basic treaty]. Then in 1982 a special permanent residence system was introduced that enabled them to receive elementary education, national pension, child-raising allowances et cetera. And in 1991 even persons with Chosen nationality (조선 국적자 Chosŏ kukjŏkja 朝鮮国籍者) were permitted Special Permanent Residence.
Correct information on permanent residence
The dates in the note are correct -- but the statuses associated with the dates are mostly incorrect.
No data shows more than 2,100,000 Chosenese in the Interior of the Empire of Japan, and this was in late 1944 or early 1945. By the end of the war in August 1945, there were fewer than 2 million.
1952 marked the start of the Potsdam Law 136-2-6 status for Chosenese and Taiwanese who lost Japan's nationality when the Peace Treaty Came into effect.
1966 marks the start of the Agreement Permanent Residence status for residentially qualified ROK nationals. The Status Agreement was signed in 1965 along with the Basic Relations Treaty, but the agreement did not come into effect until the following year.
1982 marks the availability of general permanent residence to residentially qualified Chosenese, and in other ways as well, they were treated on a par with ROK nationals.
1991 marks the start of the Special Permanent Resident (SPR) status as a consolidation of all previous statuses of residence -- beginning with 126-2-6 -- into the single status. SPR aliens in Japan represent about 50 nationalities, but the vast majority are Koreans.
Japan-resident same-womber spy ring cases
The 2nd note (**) concerns the Japan-resident same-womber spy ring cases (재일동포 간첩단 사건 chae-Il tongp'o kanch'ŏptan sagŏn 在日同胞間諜団事件). The note states that during the 1970s and 1980s, some "same wombers" (ethnic brethren) in Japan, who had crossed to ROK as students or employees, were investigated and arrested by ROK's Defense Security Command (now the Defense Intelligence Command) on suspicion of violating the State Security Law (National Security Act). According to the note, about 100 people received sentences, most of which were based on charges concocted or exaggerated through harsh treatment [intimidation]. The suspects were 2nd and 3rd generation same wombers in Japan who had grown up in Japan's comparatively free-thought society. Many were targeted merely because they had had contact with Chongryon people (총련 사람 Chyongryŏ saram 総連사람) [i.e., with members of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (在日本朝鮮人総聯合会 Zai Nihon Chōsenjin Sōrengōkai) -- a DPRK affiliated organization of Koreans in Japan]. Many, upon appeal, beginning with Yi Chong Su (이종수), have since received not-guilty judgments. There are currently about 30 cases still under appeal.
Pardoned spy convictees and permanent residence
There have been numerous "spy" cases in the Republic of Korea, which is notorious for its supression of freedom of speech in the name of national security. Many ROK nationals, including fisherman, have been wrongly accused of spying for DPRK. Koreans not only in Japan, but in other countries, have also been found guilty of spying and later released on appeal.
ROK courts, and the ROK government, have had to apolizie to many Koreans who have been found not-guilty on appeal -- or to their families.
On 10 November 2011, according to Kyōdō Tsūshin and other reports, Chyŏ Hwan [Masanori] (尹正憲), of Nara city, became the first Korean in Japan to be found not guilty by the ROK Supreme Court and pardoned of an earlier conviction of spying. Yen was arrested as a North Korean spy when a student at Korea University in Seoul in 1984. In 1985 he was sentenced to 3 years and 8 months of penal servitude, but in 1988 he was released on parole and returned to Japan. He later filed a law suit claiming he had been arrested without a warrant and tortured until he made a false confession. The Supreme Court, upholding the not-guilty decisions of the courts of 1st and 2nd instance, dismissed the prosecutor's final appeal. The charges themselves were ruled to have been fabricated. Yun was reportedly 58 at the time of the Supreme Court's ruling.
A month later, on 16 December 2011, the Seoul High Court found Kim Dong Hui (金東輝), of Osaka city, not guilty of made-up charges of spying. Kim was arrested on 22 November 1975 along with nearly 20 other students the Korean Central Intelligence Acency (KCIA, now the National Intelligence Service) claimed were DPRK spies who had infiltrated Seoul University and other ROK colleges. 16 were sentenced, 4 to death, but the death sentences were later reduced in an amnesty. Kim was 57 when he was finally found not guilty.
On 12 September 1913, the Seoul Central Court ordered ROK to pay Yun and his family 1.23 billion won (112.8 million yen) in damages as a victim of false accusations.
On 11 March 2014, Kyōdō reported that Yun and two other Koreans in Japan had visited the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) to request its cooperation in their effort to persuade the Japanese government to restore the permanent residence rights they lost on account of not being able to return to Japan during the period they were serving sentences in ROK. At the time, re-entry permits for aliens in Japan were limited to 1 year, which meant that even permanent residents -- including ROK nationals with Agreement Permanent Residence -- had to return to Japan within 1 year or lose their status of residence. Yun and the other two Koreans were hoping that an ROK appeal to the Japanese government, stressing that they had been found not guilty and pardoned, would expedite recovery of their status. The ROK MOFA official in charge of relations with Japan reportedly told them that, in the past, Japan had recognized restoration of status, and that he would raise the issue wih Japan at the next opportunity.
English version of article on Ko Kang Ho
There appears to have been no Japanese version of the Hangyŏre 21 article on Ko Kang Ho, but on 13 April 2014, an English edition version was posted in the English edition of the paper under the title A couple living without nationality.
I have here taken the liberty of reproducing the entire text of the English version with my commentary (posted 13 April 2014, modified 14 April 2014, viewed 2 September 2014). The ["Bracketed bold-italic citation"] is as received. The highlighting, [bracketed remarks], boxed comments, and underscoring therein, are mine.
[Reportage - part 1]
A couple living without nationality
Posted on : Apr.13,2014 08:14 KST Modified on : Apr.14,2014 10:28 KST
[Caption] Ko Kang-ho and Lee Mi-oh, who have worked together to send medical supplies to North Korea for the past 12 years.
One Zainichi Korean filed a lawsuit to renounce his South Korean nationality, was denied and is still trying
By Park Hyun-jung, Hankyoreh 21 staff reporter
His father had turned his back on the world. It all happened quite suddenly. Then, on his way to file a death notice for that father, the twelve-year-old boy found himself facing a situation he never saw coming: he didn't officially exist. There were no documents at all to certify his parents' marriage, or his own birth.
Where did his roots lie?
His grandfather was born over a century ago in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. He traveled to Jiandao, Primorsky Krai, and Sakhalin in search of work, before finally heading over to Hokkaido. His long journey ended when he settled down in Japan's Shimane Prefecture. There, around 90 years ago, the father was born. The boy's mother was also a Korean, having made the voyage to Japan at a very young age. At the time, Koreans were considered Japanese subjects. It was after World War II that the country stripped the Koreans and Taiwanese living within its boundaries of their Japanese citizenship. When filling out foreigner registration documents, the father gave his nationality as "Chosun," or "Korean." In the meantime, two governments, in South and North, were established on the Korean Peninsula.
It is commendable that the articles mentions Taiwanese along with Koreans, though the Koreans were actually Chosenese. But Japan did not "strip" them of the "Citizenship". They lost their nationality an account Japan's loss of Chōsen and Taiwan, and their loss of Japan's nationality was concomitant with bilateral understandings between Japan and ROK in the case of Chosenese, and Japan and ROC in the case of Taiwanese.
In 1965, the military government in Seoul normalized relations with Tokyo. The boy turned eight that year. His father, now working for the Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan), began listing his nationality as "South Korean."
It's impossible to raise a son without documents. It took two years, but the mother finally got the documents in order. The three characters of the boy's name were spelled out on the father's family register: "Ko Kang-ho." The boy then had South Korean nationality. He hadn't wanted the change; he hadn't wanted to become Japanese either. When the family decided to naturalize as Japanese citizens, he was the one who held them back. Like other Koreans living in foreign lands, he suffered from identity confusion. He thought that identity was something he recognized in himself, not something he looked for from a country, be it the Republic of Korea or the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Nationality was just a "symbol."
Some Koreans in Japan are defintely ambivalent about the mismatch between their "Korean" nationality (usually ROK) -- and their "home country" (which, for most, is Japan). However, the "identity confusion" allegation in this article is unconvincing. Koreans in Japan who do not become Japanese remain Koreans precisely because they prefer to be Koreans. They are likely to equate possession of a "Korean" nationality (国籍 kokuseki) with being a bona fide member of the "Korean" racioethnic nation (民族 minzoku).
Fifty-four years old. Now middle-aged, the son still felt the same. He decided to speak out about the thoughts he'd had over the years. His mother was gone by then. In 2011, Kang-ho filed with the Ministry of Justice to renounce his citizenship. He was forfeiting all rights and responsibilities as a South Korean. But the government would not accept the request. By the terms of the Nationality Act, the only people who can renounce South Korean citizenship are people who have multiple nationalities or have gained foreign citizenship. An attached explanation said it was part of an effort to reduce the number of stateless individuals.
Kang-ho currently lives in Japan as a "Special Permanent Resident", as a Zainichi Korean according to the terms of San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951. If he gave up his South Korean citizenship, he would not be a citizen of any country. But he was a man who would not back down. He filed suit with Seoul Administrative Court, asking for the rejection to be overturned. He argued that it was a violation of basic rights to allow only people with multiple nationalities to renounce citizenship. The lawsuit was completely without precedent. In March 2012, the court in the first trial rejected it, ruling that a person had a right to a nationality, but not to become stateless. The appeals court reached the same conclusion. Attorney Lee Seok-tae, who filed the suit on Ko's behalf, continued to appeal to the Supreme Court, calling the measures "a restriction on the freedom to abandon nationality without any consideration of concrete circumstances, at a time when various basic rights are being recognized in other countries without regard for citizenship, such as freedom to relocate."
According to the European Convention on Nationality, which went into effect in 2001 [sic = 2000], people are allowed to renounce citizenship when "there is a lack of a genuine link between the State Party and a national habitually residing abroad (Article 7)". Ko Kang-ho's case is similar. But in late 2012, the Supreme Court dismissed his appeal. He had taken the fight to court and lost.
Article 7 of the European Convention on Nationality does not allow a person to renounce their nationality for any reason. Article 7 provides for "Loss of nationality ex lege or at the initiative of a State Party". Paragraph 1 states that "A State Party may not provide in its internal law for the loss of its nationality ex lege or at the initiative of the State Party except in the following cases: (e) lack of a genuine link between the State Party and a national habitually residing abroad". And, in fact, Paragraph 1 of Article 8 -- which provides for "Loss of nationality at the initiative of the individual" -- explicity states that "Each State Party shall permit the renunciation of its nationality provided the persons concerned do not thereby become stateless.
"Laws reflect the values of that society," he said. "I didn't really expect to win the case." Why, then? He had questions he wanted to pose to the Republic of Korea: How did it treat Zainchi Koreans in Japan? What kind of country is South Korea today? What is its dream for unification?
["Both the North and South Korean governments claim Zainichi Koreans as their own nationals, but it's only recently that they've been pushing that policy seriously. When you consider that both have long taken an approach of neglecting their own people, there's no reason a Zainichi Korean should belong to either system." - from a statement by Ko Kang-ho]
In the heart of Kyoto, Japan's capital for a thousand years, many traditional homes can still be found in the narrow alleys around Nijo Castle, a World Heritage Site where Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa is believed to have stayed. The house, bearing a nameplate reading "Ko Kang-ho/Lee Mi-o," was built about 90 years ago. On Feb. 11, a Hankyoreh reporter pushed against the wooden slat gate. It let out a knocking sound as it moved to the side. Beyond the roughly two-meter-wide doorway, a third-story roof that had not been visible outside suddenly hove into view. Sunlight shone down on the kitchen through a square hole at its top: fermented soybean paste, green tea, safflower. On the refrigerator and the wall by the sink were various pasted memos in Korean and Japanese. The doorway to the left of the kitchen led up to another door. In a bookcase next to the kitchen table was a complete collection of all sixteen volumes in South Korean novelist Pak Kyung-ni's "Land" series. Familiar items, in an unfamiliar setting.
"Welcome." The voice that rang out was high and gentle. This was Kang-ho's wife Ri Mi-oh, 55. A doctor of respiratory medicine, she treats patients with terminal cancer at a hospital in Kobe, a city in nearby Hyogo Prefecture. The date of the visit happened to be a national holiday: National Foundation Day, commemorating the accession of Japan's first emperor Jimmu. Other holidays include Showa Day, which honors the birthday of the late emperor Hirohito, and the Emperor's Birthday, for current emperor Akihito. Kang-ho, who has run a dental clinic for over two decades in Otsu, a city in Shiga Prefecture, did not take the day off for holidays connected with the Japanese imperial family.
Similar round faces, similar friendly smiles - the couple even had similar jobs. They almost looked like brother and sister. About ten years ago, a swollen-faced Ri was recommended to Kang-ho's clinic by a friend after a bad tooth diagnosis. The treatment was good, but he didn't seem to know much about making money. He didn't recommend expensive treatments like implants that aren't covered by insurance. He didn't accept payment from fellow Koreans, and he offered patients some of his own homegrown vegetables. On Jan. 1 2000, just three months after they met, they were married. It was a wedding between two foreigners living in Japan.
Ko Kang-ho knows hardly any Korean. His father hadn't wanted to send him to one of the Chosun Korean schools operated by the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (pro-North Korea Chongryon). But the boy with the Korean name didn't spend much time with Japanese friends either. Mostly, he just read books and newspapers. He considered going to university in his father's country, but the household wasn't well-off financially. In 1976, he enrolled in an engineering college to study ship-making. His plan was to get a job at a South Korean shipyard after graduating and join the organized labor movement. But caring for his widowed mother and younger siblings left him unable to study for the six years after he enrolled. He wondered if there was anything he could do for the Zainichi Korean community. Finally, he changed course and went to dental school.
Mi-oh does speak Korean well, as she attended a Chosun school. Her father was a Korean from Jeju, while her mother was Japanese. Her mother had been resolute enough to leave home where her father insisted, "women don't need to go to university." Her fateful encounter happened one day while she was studying at the house of her brother, an exchange student in Tokyo. In the yard of a friend's house, she saw a shabby clapboard home, barely fit for a dog. Inside lived a poor Korean teenager. This was the young man who would become Mi-oh's father. The grandfather objected, but Mi-oh's mother went ahead with the wedding. Since they were of two different nationalities, they decided to give their first child Japanese nationality and their second Chosun nationality. Mi-oh was the second daughter. Proud and assertive, she had hopes of leaving Japan someday to live elsewhere. If she left the land where she was born and raised, maybe, she imagined, she could be free. Was there something she could do that would let her become self-sufficient right away, something she could do outside of Japan? A job where she could help others. She finally settled on becoming a doctor.
"Chosun" isn't a recognized nationality. Mi-oh has no passport, and people without passports have a difficult time traveling from one country to another. One substitute for a passport is a document from the Japanese Ministry of Justice permitting "reentry," which serves as the necessary identification for border crossing. Any overseas travel requires at least two or three months to prepare the necessary documents. But it's a process that has allowed her to visit the US and the United Kingdom, although she was unable to travel to Ireland.
Traveling to South Korea is also a tall order. She has to receive a "travel certificate," a temporary passport issued by the South Korean government. It was not until 1996, during the administration of President Kim Young-sam, that she was able to set foot in the country. The authorities had permitted her visit after she explained that she wanted to visit her father's grave in Jeju Island. After he passed away in 1991, it had taken four years for his remains to make their way home. Under the brutal military dictatorship, it was inconceivable for her relatives in Jeju to try to contact the family. Her father was once a member of Chongryon, though she claims he was forced out.
In 2010, with the Lee Myung-bak administration in office in South Korea, Mi-oh and a friend paid a visit to the Toji ("Land" as referred to in Pak Kyung-ni's series) Foundation of Culture in Wonju, Gangwon Province. Stopping in a restaurant during her trip, she saw the Vancouver Winter Olympics being broadcast on TV. "Kim Yu-na's performance was so beautiful," she recalled. It was her last memory in South Korea. While Kim Yu-na was going for a second Olympics gold earlier this year, Mi-oh was being prevented from making another trip. She made two consulate visits for the necessary procedures, but her efforts were in vain. "The employee at the consulate told me, 'You've been there ten times now. If you've seen what a good country South Korea is, why don't you change your citizenship? All it takes it [sic = is] one procedure and you won't have to come here every time anymore,'" she recalled. "And I said, 'I'm willing to come to the consulate twenty or thirty times if it means I can go to South Korea.'"
Her plight is shared by around 30,000 other people with Chosun nationality in Japan. Her husband Kang-ho decided that he could not sit by in silence any longer. It was one of the reasons he gave for wanting to renounce his South Korean nationality.
Please direct questions or comments to [firstname.lastname@example.org]
He took the ROK government's refusal to an ROK district court and lost -- and lost both his high court and Supreme Court appeals -- on the grounds that he had no other nationality.
The it would seem that he had a right renounce his nationality, the Supreme Court upheld the opinions of the lower courts that the State had a super obligation to prevent statelessness. This is essentially the position of the Japanese government.
The refusal to permit renunciation extends not only to mononationals, but to dual nationals whose other nationality is not recognized. This was the case with DPRK soccer player Chong Tese, born and raised in Japan. Chong was a national of ROK, but had attended some DPRK-sponsored schools in Japan, and was recruited to play on DPRK's national soccer team. As it was a national team, he acquired DPRK nationality, and attempted to renounce his ROK nationality, but ROK refused because it didn't recognize DPRK. From ROK's point of view, DPRK nationality didn't exist, hence Chong would have been stateless in ROK's eyes had it permitted him to renounce its nationality. See Soccer politics: Chong Tese for details.
politics of the