Court Rules in Favor of Visa for Draft Dodger Steve Yoo

Court Rules in Favor of Visa for Draft Dodger Steve Yoo

Singer Steve Yoo speaks in this video grab from December 2020.

Singer Yoo Seung-jun, better known as Steve Yoo, has won a lawsuit in Korea seeking an entry visa despite a ban because he took U.S. citizenship to dodge mandatory military service here.

It was the second lawsuit he filed since he was banned. The Seoul High Court on Thursday ordered the Korean Consulate General in Los Angeles to reverse its decision to deny Yoo an entry visa.

Yoo, who was popular in the late 1990s, fled to the U.S. with special permission from the Military Manpower Administration to perform abroad and submitted a written pledge to return, but instead he took U.S. citizenship in January 2002.

Amid the ensuing public furor, the Justice Ministry banned him from Korea. Yoo applied for a visa to Korea in 2015, when he turned 38 and would no longer have been eligible for military service. But the Korean Consulate in Los Angeles refused.

Yoo then sued, and after several appeals the Supreme Court found in 2020 that the Korean consulate had only considered the ministry’s ban and failed to follow proper procedure in processing the visa application.

But the consulate again refused to give Yoo a visa, arguing that his draft-dodging hurt the morale of young conscripts and encouraged other draft dodgers. It also cited a revision to the law from 2017 that raised the cutoff age of eligibility for military service from 38 to 41.

The Seoul High Court in the latest ruling said Yoo should be subject to the law before its revision in 2017, which could not be retroactively applied to a request from 2015, adding it was disproportionate to uphold the ban beyond the cutoff age.

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