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Ministry eases passport rules

Regulations on passport issuance for those who have committed crimes overseas will be eased, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Monday.

It said that the revision is likely to go into effect from July.

Currently, those who have committed crimes in foreign countries are banned from being issued passports for a year. Passport issuance is restricted for three years for those who are charged with a felony and then deported.

Authorities, according to the revision draft, will allow one-time leniency for first-time offenders who commit misdemeanors. The heavy restrictions in case of a felony will remain in place.

The revision came after it caused claims that the law targets Christians who are often charged over missionary activities in Muslim states.

“We have explained several times that there is no discriminative intention underneath the law. Still there have been many insinuations about our intention. Therefore, we have decided to give a grace period to first-time offenders to prove that we do not target anyone,” a ministry official told the Yonhap news agency.

The revision has been approved by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Foreign Ministry is fine-tuning the draft, authorities said, before it is enforced from July.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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