Banned Korean-American singer Yoo Seung-jun, 43, also known as Steve Yoo, gained a step closer in his bid to return to South Korea after 17 years.
The Seoul High Court issued a decision on Nov. 15 to reverse its earlier ruling that upheld the 2015 decision of the Korean consulate general in Los Angeles not to issue an F-4 visa to Yoo.
Last July 11, Korea’s Supreme Court ruled that the said decision by the consulate general was unlawful when it did not use its discretionary powers in assessing the singer’s visa application. It remanded the case to the Seoul High Court, which issued the decision on Nov. 15.
F-4, or Overseas Korean visa, is issued by the Korean government to Korean nationals who have obtained foreign citizenship. It allows them to work in South Korea.
Yoo welcomed the decision, saying, “If I have a chance to enter the country, I will try to sincerely communicate with people over public concerns and what I did in the past. I will contemplate ways to contribute to the society,” Yonhap News reported.
Yoo has been banned by the Korean government from entering South Korea for 17 years, accusing him of evading his military service by acquiring American citizenship.
He was a popular singer in South Korea in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He acquired American citizenship and renounced his Korean nationality in January 2002 shortly before he was set to undergo military service.
On Feb. 2, 2002, using his American passport under the name Steve Seung Jun Yoo, he tried to enter South Korea through Incheon International Airport but 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 and stayed for just three days.
Koreans accused him of dodging his military service and he was banned by the Korean government from entering the country.
Yoo applied for an F-4 visa with Korea’s Los Angeles consulate general in August 2015 but his application was denied the following month. He filed a lawsuit against the consulate general in October 2015.
In February 2017, the Seoul High Court upheld a decision by the Seoul Administrative Court in September 2016 that affirmed Yoo’s entry ban.
In the Supreme Court ruling last July, it stated that 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.
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. Yoo was already 38 when he applied for a visa in 2015.
The Korean government may opt to appeal the latest ruling at the Supreme Court.