Theses Master's

Sociopolitical Change and Nationality Law: Establishment and Future Directions of the Korean Nationality Act in a Comparative Perspective

Choi, Hyunwoo

A nationality law is an outgrowth of sociopolitical adaptations. Basic principles of nationality laws originated from Europe and were applied into modern nationality laws depending on sociopolitical circumstances. France, Germany, and Japan flexibly changed their nationality principles and laws throughout history. Likewise, this paper will demonstrate how the Korean Nationality Act is an outcome of continuous adjustments to sociopolitical demands in the first half of the twentieth century. It argues that the first Nationality Act was the product of the Japanese colonial family registry system, the confiscation policy under the US occupation government, and ethnic nationalism movements around the world. A series of revisions on the law relaxed naturalization criteria, but the Nationality Act has not caught up with the changing landscape of Korea in the twenty first century. While there is a significant increase in immigrants, refugees, and North Korean defectors, there has also been a major decrease in the ethnic Korean population. Under the current law, people acquire Korean nationality based on their parental bloodlines. This criterion deprives foreign residents of their basic rights, including health care, education, and protection from the government. Furthermore, it reduces the economically active Korean population, which pushes Korea towards an economic downturn. By examining the conditions that led to the establishment of the current Korean Nationality Act and highlighting the communal benefits of expanding the nationalization criteria, this paper argues for wider nationalization criteria that are based on residency in modern day Korea.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
East Asian Languages and Cultures
M.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 15, 2013