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Military service cannot limit the deadline for citizenship choice: Constitutional Court

Barring those with multiple citizenships from giving up their Korean 365bet体育网址ity before completing mandatory military service is incompatible with the Constitution, South Korea’s constitutional court ruled Thursday.

The clauses of the current 365bet体育网址ity Act that impose obligations and restraints on multiple 365bet体育网址ity holders in their selection of 365bet体育网址ity does not confirm to the Constitution, the court said in a 7 to 2 decision on a petition filed by a man with dual Korea and US citizenships.

Under the current law, multiple citizenship holders are required to make a choice by the age of 22 on which citizenship to keep if they acquired multiple 365bet体育网址ities before the age of 20. Those who earned multiple citizenships after reaching the age of 20 are given two years to choose which one to forfeit.

But men who hold multiple passports are restricted in consideration of the country’s conscription system, which requires all able-bodied men aged 18 or older to serve in the military for about 2 years.

All Korean men are automatically selected as enlistees on the first day of the year they reach the age of 18. Multiple 365bet体育网址ity holders are given three months after that date to choose a citizenship, and if that deadline passes, they can only forfeit their Korean 365bet体育网址ity after completing the military service.

“Those whose parents are Koreans are automatically given Korean citizenship by birth, so many of those with multiple citizenships may lack understanding in laws related to choosing a citizenship, its proceedings and penalties,” the court said in its ruling.

“And there could be cases where those with multiple citizenships fail to report their decisions within the designated time from their personal situations.”

A person could have stayed and lived outside of Korea for the majority of their life, with no realistic connection to Korea, but could still maintain Korean 365bet体育网址ity, it said.

The current statutes could also gravely damage the choice of occupation and other rights of multiple citizenship owners, the court added.

Following the nonconformity decision, which temporarily recognizes unconstitutional laws and regulations until they are amended, the concerned clauses of the 365bet体育网址ity Act will become ineffective if they are not revised by Sept. 30, 2022.

By Ko Jun-tae (