Entry ban on Korean American singer Steve Yoo should be in place: military manpower agency chief

October 13, 2020

 Steve Yoo, a once successful Korean-American singer banned from entering South Korea for 18 years for dodging the draft, should not be allowed into the country because his entry could be dispiriting to others carrying out the duty, the military manpower agency chief said Tuesday.

In 2002, the singer, better known as Yoo Seung-jun, renounced his Korean citizenship to allegedly dodge military service, even though he had repeatedly pledged to carry out the duty. The move sparked a public uproar, and the government banned him from entering the country.

After years of legal battle, Seoul’s top court ruled in favor of Yoo in March, saying the refusal to grant him a visa had procedural flaws. But the ruling did not mean his entry should be permitted, and the singer filed a lawsuit against the diplomatic mission in Los Angeles for the visa issuance denial.

“I don’t want to call him Yoo Seung-jun. He is not a South Korean, but an American citizen named Steve Yoo,” Mo Jong-hwa, chief of the Military Manpower Administration (MMA), said during a parliamentary audit of the agency.

“He opted to renege on his noble duty of military service, though he had promised to the public to fully fulfill the obligation,” the chief said, stressing that he “swiftly” carried out a series of procedures to renounce Korean nationality at that time in an apparent attempt to evade conscription.

“If he is allowed to come in and resumes his career as a singer, it will cause a huge sense of loss among the public and frustrate our young people who sincerely serve their due duty,” Mo added.

All able-bodied South Korean men must serve in the military for about two years, and draft dodging is a sensitive issue in South Korea, which can even affect the fate of government officials, celebrities and other public figures.

Yoo’s case has sparked public outcry, and his possible return has been a matter of heated debate.

Yoo later expressed his regret over Mo’s comments in a social media post, claiming that he is being treated unfairly.

“I know I did not keep my promise as an entertainer and that’s wrong,” he said. “But the government blocking my entry for decades citing the country’s security reason is clearly discrimination and infringement of human rights.”

This 2010 file photo shows Korean-American singer Yoo Seung-jun. (Yonhap)

This 2010 file photo shows Korean-American singer Yoo Seung-jun. (Yonhap)