Dual citizenship for Korean Adoptees


So, it was just a matter of time before the nice posts of my life journey as an adopted person dwindles and the stronger opinions come to the surface.  This week a Korean news site featured an article about a group of Korean Adoptees gaining their Korean citizenship back again.

First off, I would like to congratulate the first group of newly minted citizens.  I appreciate the value of such an accomplishment watching and reading from the sidelines as my peers persevered to get our voices heard and acknowledge that Korea never left us even if we left Korea.  I can appreciate the desire to be valued as a legitimate Korean person and nothing says that louder than being a citizen of that country.

I am left wondering though.  Why no military service for those with only an “orphan birth registry”?  Why the disappointment that scholarships to learn Korean will no longer be given to these new citizens?  I suppose I am left wondering, why so much entitlement?  It seems to me that for the group of adoptees who seek dual citizenship, they will have the rights and possibilities of every other Korean.  I think that is pretty remarkable and to ask for any special dispensation feels disengenuous.

I had a client once who was not willing to go for her US citizenship as she could not raise her hand to vow to defend this country.  I really respected her for taking this pledge to the USA so seriously.  As a citizen we want what our country offers but should we not also embrace the laws and tenants of the place we call home?  With the privelege of citizenship comes the duties and obligations, not more or less.

Up to now, I have come to respect the adoptee community in Korea who have fundamentally changed the way we look at international adoption worldwide.  I don’t think that is an understatement.  I have seen how their voices and relentless tenacity to be acknowledged by Korea has established resources, education, jobs and awareness in ways that are altering the way other countries are handling their adult adoptees who return.  This community has been the safe haven for many who come to Korea to seek, find and connect.  I have been grateful to my overseas Korean adoptee brethren.  They have given me the confidence to send others who are still seeking into their capable hands.  And with this issue, I understand the euphoria of getting something that was perceived to have been stripped away at a time when we had no choice.  But to ask for more exceptions feels like we are asking for citizenship but not really.  It feels like we are demanding of Korea to make up for the loss of a life but expect nothing in return?  It feels like we keep asking.  Is that even a fair question to pose?

5 thoughts on “Dual citizenship for Korean Adoptees

  1. As a Korean adoptee currently living in Korea, I’ve followed the developments in this with interest. I think there will be a lot of questions asked in the coming years. I think that adoptees who seek dual citizenship should have the same responsibilities as any citizen. Honestly, there should be a language and cultural knowledge requirement for citizenship, because it is nearly impossible to live in this country on a permanent basis, as an individual, without speaking Korean moderately well and without having good knowledge of various social mores.

    As far as military service is concerned, I could see arguments both for and against it. As a Korean citizen, you should feel responsibility for the place you call home. However, I could see the Korean government’s own reluctance in the matter though for reasons of national security. Even if an adoptee were fully committed to the Korean military, there would still be an extremely low glass ceiling installed for that person because they weren’t raised in Korea. I don’t know of any government that is willing to risk national security for the sake of equality.

    • Thanks for these amazing comments! I am humbled that you are all living in Korea and took the time to read my words. I stand corrected about the military service somewhat in that I recall “orphans” who aged out of the orphanage were also waived their service as their loyalty was in question. That is how one phrased it to me.

  2. I think it is fair, in fact I filled out a survey about dual citizenship and one of my suggestions was that if we (adoptees) were not required to do military service, then we should be required to do some type of public/civil community service for the same length of time. I also think that there should be a language requirement. I think the advantages of both of these ideas would be very concrete, it would be a more authentic form of citizenship. It would enable adoptees to enter into real collaboration with Koreans and as a result the understanding between both groups would be greatly increased.

    I’m a US citizen, and although the idea of dual citizenship excites me, it also has me very leery and skeptical…not because of the ideals behind it, but rather, having lived in Seoul, getting married to a Korean citizen there, having my son born there and then living in Ottawa, Canada and having my daughter born there…I’ve come to be very cynical when it comes to the idea of governments working together. There are a lot of issues that arise…

    Currently, I could become a Korean dual citizen, but what about my wife? Currently she has a green card here in the US, but what would happen to her status? She’s not allowed to be a dual citizen and the same goes for my children, so what’s the point?

    James Straker aka Park Mingyu

  3. The adoptee community seems to expect compensation for ‘wrong’ that has been done to us. For being ‘stripped’ of our citizenship, against our will. I think people often forget that our Korean citizenship was replaced with citizenship to prosperous, democratic countries, which have afforded us so much more than we could have had in 70s/80s Korea.
    To be honest I’m thankful to not have Korean citizenship. With citizenship comes obligations and loyalties. I think it’s essential that a citizen is capable of integrating and becoming part of the society they’ve adopted. I honestly don’t know how possible this is for most adoptees. I have lived in Seoul for nearly 4 years; yet my Korean language skills are quite low, the majority of my friends and associates are foreigners and apart from paying taxes, I contribute little to this society/country. I could never call myself a Korean citizen and mean it, with conviction. My f4 visa fits my needs and reflects my identity as a Korean adoptee perfectly as well – a little bit Korean, but essentially a foreigner.

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