The Korea Herald


Korea toughens regulations on anchor babies, citizenship

By 배지숙

Published : Jan. 9, 2011 - 18:17

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The government has decided to grant dual citizenship to the children of women who have studied or worked overseas for more than six months and given birth while abroad.

Those who fail to meet the standard will be considered “anchor babies” from “birth tourists” and will be excluded from the system, said the Ministry of Justice on Sunday. Korean males who gain dual citizenship will still be mandated to the compulsory military draft.

The new guidelines were expected to distinguish anchor babies from legitimate dual citizenship candidates after the revised law on dual citizenship came into effect on New Year’s Day. Hundreds of Koreans are expected to file for the program.

The controversial adoption of dual citizenship aims to prevent “brain drain” where talented Korean nationals naturalize to other countries while giving up their own, or to attract exceptionally talented foreigners to Korea and allow them to stay without obstacles.

Under the new system, foreigners will be exempt from military service. But young Korean males will be bound to fulfill the compulsory service despite having a foreign nationality.

The foreign applicants will have to have up to a two-year screening process for their aptitude to be considered and also pledge not to exercise the rights of their foreign nationality on Korean territory. Dual citizenship will also be available to Koreans aged 65 or older who reside overseas and wish to regain their Korean passports.

Birth tourists, parents seeking to give birth overseas in order to give their children dual citizenship or a foreign passport, possibly to evade the mandatory military draft and grant more job opportunities in the future, have been criticized regularly here where military draft dodging is considered legally and morally unaccepted.

Anchor babies were also the alleged reason for the government’s hesitance in adopting the dual-citizenship system. Previously, naturalization was allowed only for those who have resided in Korea for more than five years or who are married to Korean nationals and have been in Korea for more than two years.

According to an American media report, more than 10,000 Korean anchor babies are born in major cities of the U.S. every year, where birthright citizenship is offered. In 2005, a law was introduced to subject those offspring to military service before they choose to renounce Korean nationality at age 22, but that has not significantly reduced birth tourism.

By Bae Ji-sook (