Note: The information on this page was obtained from websites such as the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Korea, The Embassy of the Republic of Korea in the USA, and the Military Manpower Administration of Korea. The information provided here should be used as a guideline only; please contact your local Korean consulate or embassy with questions about your specific situation. The information below is current as of July 2019.
Students of Korean descent who plan to study abroad in South Korea may face issues if they are dual citizens of Korea and the United States. Before completing an application to study abroad in South Korea, make sure you are fully aware of whether or not you have dual citizenship and the implications of studying abroad in Korea as a dual citizen. Male students in particular may face complications due to Korea's mandatory military service requirement for all male citizens.
Who has dual citizenship?
When a child is born in a country that adheres to the jus soli (citizenship by being born on the soil) principle and their parent is a citizen of a country with jus sanguinis (citizenship through blood relations) principle, the child obtains both citizenships at birth. For example, if a child was born in the U.S. (jus soli principle) to parents who are South Korean citizens (jus sanguinis principle), then the child is automatically a citizen of both countries.
A child born before June 13, 1998 whose father is a South Korean citizen at the time of their birth is considered a South Korean citizen. A child born after June 13, 1998 whose father OR mother was a South Korean citizen at the time of their birth is considered a South Korean citizen.
Choice of nationality
Male dual citizens who wish to renounce their Korean nationality must do so by March of the year they turn 18. If they do not renounce their citizenship by that time, they will be unable to renounce their Korean citizenship until after they have completed their Korean military service or until they are no longer bound by military service laws (at 38 years old).
Male dual citizens who are deemed unfit to serve in the military and female dual citizens must choose their nationality by their 22nd birthday. If they do not, their Korean nationality is automatically cancelled and they must apply for reinstatement of their Korean nationality. If applying for reinstatement of Korean nationality, the dual citizens must give up their former nationality.
Military service obligations for Korean males
All male citizens of South Korea, including dual nationals, are required to serve in the Korean military per the Korean Constitution and Military Service Law. Male citizens who did not renounce their Korean citizenship by March 31 of the year they turn 18 are unable to renounce their Korean citizenship after that point.
Male citizens of South Korea between the ages of 25 and 37 must obtain overseas travel permits from the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) if they wish to travel outside of Korea during those periods. Males under the age of 24 are not required to apply for a permit to travel overseas, but are expected to apply for a travel permit at their local embassy or consulate if they are still overseas by the time they are 25.
If you were adopted by U.S. citizen parents and obtained U.S. citizenship shortly after your adoption, discuss your Korean citizenship status with your family. While your Korean citizenship should automatically be cancelled by obtaining U.S. citizenship, if your loss of nationality was not reported to your consulate or embassy, you may face issues when obtaining your Korean visa or Alien Registration Card after arrival in Korea.
Students who were adopted by U.S. citizens should contact the embassy or consulate within their jurisdiction to confirm their citizenship status.
Students who were born in Korea but obtained U.S. citizenship
If you were born in Korea but obtained U.S. citizenship through permanent residency or other means, you are no longer considered a Korean national. However, in order to avoid issues at Korean immigration, you must report the loss of your nationality to your local Korean consulate or embassy before traveling to Korea.
What does this mean for my study abroad semester?
Students interested in studying in South Korea should determine whether or not they are considered Korean citizens by discussing their situation with their families and their local Korean embassy or consulate. If you are considered a Korean citizen, the consulate will refuse to issue you a student visa and require you to enter Korea with your Korean passport. Male students who are Korean citizens and stay in Korea for longer than 90 days may be subject to military draft notices during their semester abroad. Furthermore, male students who do not serve in the military may find themselves unable to visit Korea in the future, as they could be subject to detainment and forced conscription.
If you are a male, have or decide to get a Korean passport and plan to study abroad in Korea anyway, contact Temple Education Abroad as soon as possible to discuss possible ramifications of your study abroad semester.