Banned singer Steve Yoo’s Korean F-4 visa application denied anew despite Supreme Court ruling

Banned Korean-American singer Steve Yoo’s F-4 visa application was rejected again by the Korean consulate general in Los Angeles despite a Supreme Court ruling in his favor last March.

Yoo, whose real name is Yoo Seung-jun, has been banned from entering Korea for 18 years when he acquired American citizenship and renounced his Korean nationality in January 2002 before he was set to undergo military service, a mandatory duty for all able-bodied Korean men. He was shunned by the public and accused of dodging his military service.

He applied for an F-4 Korean visa and last July 2, the Korean consulate general in Los Angeles rejected his application again because of the issue of his evasion of military service. The Korean government claimed that granting Yoo a visa would damage the interests of the country in national security, maintenance of public order and public welfare.

F-4, or Overseas Korean visa, is issued to Korean nationals who have obtained foreign citizenship that allows them to work in South Korea.

After Yoo’s visa application was rejected, his lawyers filed a second case against the Korean consulate with the Seoul Administrative Court this week.

“The Korean government’s rejection of issuing an entry visa for Yoo is contrary to the principle of proportionality and is an excessive punishment, counter to the Supreme Court decision," Yoo’s lawyers said, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily.

They added, “We want to ask the government, does his return to the country truly endanger the maintenance of national security and public order, or damage Korea’s interests?”

On the LA Korean consulate general’s website, it is stated that “if Korean male (included dual citizen) gave up Korean nationality without performing Korean military duty, he will not be able to obtain Overseas Korean (F-4) visa until the year when he becomes 41 old. If Korean male loses Korean nationality before 2018.5.1., he may be able to obtain F-4 visa.” Yoo is currently 43 years old.

Steve Yoo (Instagram)

Yoo was a popular singer in Korea in the 1990s and 2000s, and he even won a bonsang, or main prize, at the Golden Disc Awards and Seoul Music Awards.

After he acquired American citizenship, he tried to enter South Korea using his American passport under the name Steve Seung Jun Yoo in February 2002. When he arrived at Incheon International Airport he was deported back to the US. He was temporarily allowed to enter Korea on June 26, 2003 to attend the funeral of his fiancee’s father.

In August 2015, Yoo applied for an F-4 visa with Korea’s LA consulate general but it was denied the following month. He filed a lawsuit in Korea against the consulate in October 2015 that became the basis for Korea’s Supreme Court to decide on the matter.

On March 12 this year, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that ruled that there was a flaw in assessing his visa application in 2015.

In the decision, the Supreme Court upheld the Nov. 15, 2019 decision of the Seoul High Court in favor of Yoo in his lawsuit against the Korean consulate general in Los Angeles.

Korea’s Act on the Immigration and Legal Status of Overseas Koreans states that the Ministry of Justice may refuse entry to a Korean who got foreign citizenship to evade military service but it does not apply to overseas Koreans who have reached 38 years old, which was Yoo’s age in 2015 when he applied for a visa.

In July last year, Korea’s Supreme Court ruled that the 2015 decision by the LA consulate was unlawful when it did not use its discretionary powers in assessing Yoo’s visa application. It remanded the case to the Seoul High Court, which issued the favorable decision last November.

It said the LA consulate general did not follow the right administrative procedure when it informed Yoo’s dad over the phone on Sept. 2, 2015 that his son’s application was denied instead of sending him a written notice.

Regarding the latest move by the LA consulate in rejecting Yoo’s visa application, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, "Yoo applied for an F-4 visa and the consulate general in Los Angeles rejected it after taking all relevant issues into consideration. The fact that one has all the standard qualifications doesn't immediately guarantee them a visa automatically," according to the Korea Times.