More than 4,200 former South Korean citizens have renounced the passports of their motherland to earn military exemption in 2016 alone.
As about 270,000 South Korean men have begun their country’s compulsory military service this year, one in every 65 South Koreans have renounced their citizenship to avoid joining the military.
Over the last five years, 17,229 South Koreans between the ages of 18 and 40 have renounced their citizenship. The number has increased steadily throughout the year, starting from 2,842 in 2012 to 3,075 in 2013 to 4,386 in 2014.
Between January and July of this year, 4,220 South Koreans have already abandoned their citizenship. Among those who did, 50.7 percent have become American citizens, followed by Japan (3,077) and Canada (3,007).
Among the reported 17,229, only 9.6 percent are the ones who held dual-citizenship before renouncing their Korean passports, while 90.4 percent began living in their newly-adopted country despite being born in South Korea.
The Korean government is currently considering different ways to prevent able-bodied male citizens from dodging the country’s military service.
“There is a plan to ban those who renounce their Korean citizenship before completing their military service from reclaiming their citizenship,” said an official of the Military Manpower Administration. “If those individuals are children of South Korea’s public figures, there may even be a penalty to their parents.”
By Sung Hoon Park