by Yoon Jee Hyun (JeeJee)
South Korea, an unstable peninsula under the idea of democracy, has continuous anxiety on the never-ending possibilities of warfare with the Communist country of North Korea. Due to this country’s precarious diplomatic situation with its neighbor, having a strong military system is a highly significant governmental role to achieve in South Korea. In order to have a concrete military system, male Korean citizens have to serve in the army for about 2 years, except in the cases of fourth-generation only son, child patriarch, persons with disease, and persons who have foreign citizenship. Once a male person has “South Korean citizenship”, it is his fate to enlist in the army.
From the reading of “Citizenship and Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, and Challenges to the Nation-State”, Bloemraad, Korteweg, and Yurdakul define ‘citizenship’ in four different dimensions: legal status, rights, political participation, and a sense of belonging. Simply to identify citizenship firstly as a legal status means people can get citizenship status by their own birth place or parental origins or through naturalization process. Citizenship as rights grants authorities such as basic rights to the people from the state while individual has to obligate state’s set rules. Citizenship in terms of political participation is that people are privileged to actively participate politically to shape the nation whereas the state itself can govern its people within its territory boundaries. Lastly, people have ‘in-group’ feelings by sharing the same community under the suggested definition of citizenship as sense of belonging by Bloemraad and her co-authors. All these four different dimensions integrate altogether; the notion of citizenship can be enhanced and can be advanced.
In case of South Korean citizenship, I think the emphasized meaning of citizenship as ‘rights’ plays an important role. The nation (South Korea) provides rights to its citizens such as rights to a basic education and rights to be able to live in a healthy environment. Vice versa, South Korean government can impose rules to Korean citizens that people should and have to follow. This both-way obligation process related to rights of citizenship could facilitate military service system in South Korea.
In other words, under the status of ‘Korean citizenship’ and male gender, the people are obliged by governmental law to protect their family, friends, and the nation through entering 2 years of military service.
Bloemraad, I., A. Korteweg, & G. Yurdakul. Citizenship And Immigration: Multiculturalism, Assimilation, And Challenges To The Nation-State. Annual Review of Sociology, 34, 153-179.