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Steve Yoo’s visa battle goes to Supreme Court as consulate general appeals earlier decision

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Singer Steve Yoo has not been allowed to enter Korea since evading his military duty in 2002. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
Singer Steve Yoo has not been allowed to enter Korea since evading his military duty in 2002. [SCREEN CAPTURE]

Singer Steve Yoo’s effort to enter Korea has once again taken him to the Supreme Court.

According to media reports on Wednesday, the Korean Consulate General in Los Angeles appealed to last month’s Seoul High Court decision, which ruled in favor of Yoo, saying that the consulate general has no reason to reject Yoo’s visa application.

“One who lost his nationality as a result of evading military service should not be permitted to stay [in Korea], but if he is over 38 years old and is not a threat to national security, permission to stay in Korea should be given,” the Seoul High Court said in July.

The High Court ruling overturned a lower court’s decision barring Yoo from entering the country.

However, the Korean Consulate General in Los Angeles has been taking a firm stance on Yoo, insisting that Yoo’s actions to dodge the military service “harm the national interest.”

In 2002, Yoo, then a popular singer in Korea, renounced his Korean citizenship and became a U.S. citizen to evade his military duty, resulting in an entry ban by the Ministry of Justice the same year.

Yoo had initially applied for a visa in 2015 for overseas Koreans to return to the country, but the consulate general in Los Angeles refused to issue the visa, citing the Justice Ministry’s ban.

Yoo filed his first administrative lawsuit against the consulate general the same year, and the Korean Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 2020, saying that the consulate general did not exercise its discretionary power when rejecting Yoo’s visa application. However, the Supreme Court did not say rejecting Yoo’s visa application itself was illegal.

When the consulate general rejected Yoo’s visa application again in 2020, noting “social disputes may arise” if Yoo is permitted into Korea, he began his second round of legal disputes with the diplomatic authorities, arguing that the visa rejection goes against the Supreme Court’s ruling.

A lower court in April last year ruled in favor of the consulate general, citing that the highest court’s decision in 2020 was only related to the issuing process and did not mean Yoo was entitled to a visa.

BY CHO YONG-JUN [cho.yongjun1@joongang.co.kr]

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