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Panel allows recovery of citizenship after faltered marriage

An administrative appeals panel under the nation’s anti-corruption watchdog ruled against the Justice Ministry’s refusal to reinstate the Korean citizenship of a woman whose marriage to an Iranian man faltered as the husband was banned from re-entering Korea due to his criminal record.

The Korean woman married an Iranian man in January 2015, registered their marriage the following month and automatically became an Iranian citizen under Iranian law, which grants citizenship to women who marry Iranian men regardless of the women’s will. 


As Korea does not allow dual citizenship, the woman lost her Korean citizenship.

The husband left Korea just eight days after registering their marriage, and has been banned from re-entering the country for a period of five years due to his criminal record. The woman said she lost contact with her husband and does not know even if he is alive or not.

The woman could have reported to the Korean government, under the Nationality Act, that she would like to retain her Korean nationality, but she said she was never informed of the rule.

Article 15 of the Nationality Act stipulates that a person who has acquired the same nationality as his or her spouse through marriage to a foreign national will be deemed to have lost his or her Korean nationality if he or she fails to declare such intention to the justice minister to retain it within six months after acquisition of the foreign citizenship.

The woman made a report to declare her intention to keep her Korean citizenship on Aug. 18. 2015, just 15 days after the six-month term expired on Aug. 3, 2015. 

She requested the Justice Ministry reinstate her Korean nationality, as she no longer needs Iranian citizenship due to her faltered marriage, and because Korea is the country where she was born and is currently working.

The ministry, however, refused to reinstate her citizenship, citing her “disorderly conduct,” alluding to her prior criminal record.

Article 9 of the Nationality Act stipulates that the justice minister shall not allow certain persons to recover their nationality. They include those who have inflicted harm on Korea, have renounced nationality to evade military service and whose conduct is disorderly.

The woman appealed to the central administrative appeals panel of the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission, saying she was never informed of the rules and that the ministry’s refusal to reinstate her citizenship due to her criminal record was harsh.

The appeals committee nullified the ministry’s refusal, saying the woman’s criminal activity took place while she was a Korean citizen and that she would have kept her nationality had she reported her intention merely 15 days earlier.

By Kim So-hyun (