SEOUL, June 1 (Korea Bizwire) — An amendment of the Nationality Act, for which the Ministry of Justice recently issued a legislation notice, is causing a controversy over preferential treatment for Korean-Chinese people.
The children of permanent residents can be acknowledged as Koreans only if they undergo the naturalization process after becoming adults. This is the case even if they are born in Korea but their parents are not Korean citizens.
The amendment, however, contains a provision that introduces the concept of birthright citizenship for the current Nationality Act, which is based on the right of blood.
Under the amendment, children under six years of age can obtain Korean nationality if a report is made and the children older than seven years of age can do so if they stay in Korea for more than five years.
The amendment is aimed at increasing the productive population as well as attracting future talent. It’s expected that the amendment would result in roughly 600 to 700 new naturalizations every year.
Nonetheless, there is growing criticism that the new amendment is in favor of Korean-Chinese people.
According to data from the Ministry of Justice, about 95 percent of the children of permanent residents who would qualify for citizenship under the new amendment are of Chinese nationality.
Another concern is that it could lead to a phenomenon dubbed ‘meok-tui’, meaning dine-and-dash in Korean.
Since the individuals targeted by the new amendment will be able to maintain their original nationality, they could return to their home country after enjoying welfare benefits.
Experts said that in the international community, it’s common to provide preferential treatment to groups who are accustomed to the culture of the residing country, and therefore can be harmonized more easily, adding that there are judicial precedents backing such preferential treatment.
However, it remains uncertain if the amendment will actually lead to a future boost in the Korean workforce.
“Since China does not allow dual citizenship, the number of those who attempt to acquire Korean citizenship would be limited,” lawyer Kang Sung-sik said.
J. S. Shin (email@example.com)