Korean Canadian to be deported for draft dodging

April 3, 2014
Korean court came down hard on a 36-year-old man who skipped compulsory military service and obtained Canadian citizenship.  (Yonhap)

Korean court came down hard on a 36-year-old man who skipped compulsory military service and obtained Canadian citizenship. (Yonhap)

By Kim Da-ye

A 36-year-old man who skipped compulsory military service and obtained Canadian citizenship faces deportation after a court found him guilty of violating the Military Service Law.

The Seoul Central District Court handed the man, identified as Lee, a six-month prison term suspended for a year in January. Lee appealed the decision, but the court dismissed it. The Korean court does not allow the release of full names of non-public figures, even if they are found guilty.

The Immigration Control Law requires a convicted foreign national who has been given a suspended prison sentence or harsher punishment to be evicted from the country.

Lee had sought a lighter sentence because he married a Korean national in January and planned to stay in the country.

“The military service imposed on a healthy adult man of Korean nationality is a duty that accompanies many kinds of benefits and rights one has as a Korean citizen. A severe punishment is needed for the act of evading this,” the three-judge panel, led by presiding judge Sung Soo-je, said in its ruling.

“It is highly possible that his example can be abused as a novel way of avoiding military service,” the ruling said, pointing to Lee’s absence from Korea during the conscription ages and his acquisition of foreign citizenship,

In 1998, Lee, at the age of 20, asked the Military Manpower Administration (MMA) to allow him leave Korea for studies in the U.S.

Korean men have to serve in the military for about 21 months between the age of 18 and 35. Those, who have not finished their duty but wish to travel abroad, need approval from the MMA.

The MMA gave Lee permission to stay abroad between Nov. 1, 1998 and Nov. 30, 2000. Lee didn’t return on schedule, but secured Canadian citizenship in April 2011.

When he came back to Korea, he was prosecuted for evading conscription. He claimed that he could not return to Korea because his father’s business went bankrupt and he lost contact with his family. He said he was busy, trying to make a living because of financial difficulties.

The lower court found his reasons “not justifiable.”

Lee appealed the decision, saying that the military service law does not apply to him, a Canadian citizen. He also argued that since he was married to a Korean national, he planned to stay in Korea and he had to take care of his mother who recently underwent surgery.

The three-judge panel of the same district court dismissed his arguments.

 

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