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[Newsmaker] Court orders consulate to rethink visa denial for K-pop draft-dodger

Steve Seung Jun Yoo speaks during an interview on an SBS weekday television entertainment news program, Sept. 17, 2019. (SBS)
Steve Seung Jun Yoo speaks during an interview on an SBS weekday television entertainment news program, Sept. 17, 2019. (SBS)
The Seoul High Court on Friday upheld a Supreme Court decision in favor of Korean American Steve Seung Jun Yoo, also known as Yoo Seung-jun, requiring the South Korean Consulate in Los Angeles to reconsider its 2017 decision to deny the former K-pop singer an F-4 residency visa.

With the exception of a brief visit, the Korean-born singer and actor has been banned from his birth country since 2002, when he became a naturalized US citizen and evaded his mandatory military duty in Korea.

Korea’s Military Manpower Administration, or MMA, and its Justice Ministry imposed the ban on the grounds of “safeguarding the interests and safety of the state,” pursuant to the immigration law. 

In October 2015, Yoo petitioned a Korean court to reverse the consulate’s decision not to issue him an F-4 visa. Lower courts ruled against him, but the Supreme Court disagreed, saying the consulate “had not looked into the reason behind the Justice Ministry’s decision.” The case was turned back to the appeals court.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry immediately responded to the Friday ruling, saying, “We will ask the Supreme Court to review the case again. We will be closely coordinating with the MMA and Justice Ministry in the process.”

Yoo contends that his entry ban is unfair, arguing that others who had obtained foreign citizenship for the same reason had not faced the same penalty. The consulate maintains Yoo still does not qualify for the F-4 visa, which allows its holders to enjoy most of the same privileges extended to Korean citizens. 

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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