from the Korean Army to being published

the blog of an "ex-patriot" writer in Korea

Entry #10: The Law and Reserve Training

with 3 comments

This past week, one of my students missed class because of reserve training. It’s that time of the year again. After your term of active duty, all soldiers must continue their service for several more years as reserves. Well, not all. There are exceptions, or at least one.

When people ask me why I went to the army, the shortest answer is that I was a dual citizen. I just didn’t know it until I came to Korea. It is far more complicated than that but it’s explained in my first chapter, which I’m revising currently, and I’m tired of writing about it.

At the time, Korea did not officially acknowledge dual citizenship. However, there are always exceptions. To be specific, Korea did not officially acknowledge dual citizenship unless the dual citizen in question was a male of age who did not complete his military service obligation. Of course, there were no privileges afforded to people in this situation. Citizen registration cards and passports were only given to Korean citizens that did not have another citizenship. I was only recognized as a Korean citizen insofar as I had to go to the army.

I did go to the army, but I don’t have to do reserve training. The reason for that is also a legal matter. Once I finished my service, by law, I had to select one citizenship within two years. Because I couldn’t get a Korean passport as an American citizen and couldn’t get a visa because I was a Korean citizen, I was in a strange predicament. Because I only had an American passport but no valid visa, I had been illegally overstaying as an American for the two years I was in the army and thus subject to the imposition of very heavy fines. Out of necessity, I cancelled my Korean citizenship the week after I finished my service and had those fines dropped. I lived as a Korean for only two years, two years I spent in the army. I have never received any benefit or right as a Korean, just that one awful, nightmarish obligation.

I heard that recently Korea has begun to acknowledge dual citizenship. The reason for their decision was not to rectify certain injustices but because Koreans were complaining that foreigners and gyopos working for Korean corporations were subject to less taxation, which is exactly the reason why I don’t apply for dual citizenship. I gave the government two years of my life at less than one percent of what I make now (which is only a decent wage compared to my peers); I’m going to keep what little money I make.

It’s not really a perk, not having to go to reserve training. I wouldn’t mind going to reserve training. It’s what I imagine Halloween in Texas is like: playing dress up and playing with guns. Or life in Wyoming.

* If you hail from the great states of Texas and Wyoming and took offense at my last remark, my apologies. I wasn’t talking about you. I was talking about those other Texans and Wyomingites. You know who I’m talking about.


Written by Young

May 16, 2010 at 6:46 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I am Korean, but still the dual citizenship and all the Korean army part just confuses me. I haven’t been to Korea almost 6 years, I miss my family and friends. I will be visiting there June 1st though. Good work on blog 🙂 interesting!


    May 17, 2010 at 5:09 am

    • Nabi,

      The dual citizenship and Korean Army part still confuses me, too. If you have any questions, I’ll answer them if I can. I’m no expert, but I have done a lot of research into immigration law and can answer them for free.

      I hope you have a nice reunion with your family and friends. I’ve been in Korea for a long time and haven’t noticed any big changes but maybe you’ll notice some changes after such a long sojourn overseas.



      May 17, 2010 at 1:54 pm

  2. Thx for the comment 😉
    Ah I am not a dude so I really have no idea about all the army stuff. All I know is that sometimes yuhaksaeng go back to Korea so they can join Korean army. I do think that sux though. From what I heard, a lot of transportation system has been changed too. I am kinda afraid to get lost. oh well, we will find out in 2 wks !


    May 19, 2010 at 1:45 am

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