Hanyang University Professors Talk About Settling in Korea
Professors talk about naturalization and marriage
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Following Korea’s rapid development and increasing influence in international relations, the inflow of foreigners into Korea has increased greatly compared to the last two decades. Last year, there were over 2.3 million foreigners living in the country, and Hanyang University currently has around 3,000 international students studying in both campuses. Thanks to Korea’s leading industries, culture, safe environment and universities, more foreigners are taking an interest in prolonging their stay in the country. Two of the Hanyang University professors who have decided to make their stay in Korea long-term are Professor Krisda Chaemsaithong (Department of English Language and Literature) and Professor Michael William Brandon (Center for Creative Convergence Education). As of November 20th, Chaemsaithong has become a naturalized Korean citizen, while Brandon has acquired a marriage visa after marrying his Korean wife five years ago. Although the two Hanyang faculty members differentiate in status, they have both obtained the right to stay in Korea permanently.
Chaemsaithong said practicality was one of his reasons for obtaining Korean citizenship. He has been living in Korea for seven years and has always fulfilled his duties. Apart from protecting one’s country, Chaemsaithong believed he was doing everything an ordinary Korean would do for their country, so he thought it was about time that he took the next step. In addition, as a professor of a university in Korea, obtaining citizenship would mean that he could represent his soon-to-be country.
Thanks to the Korean government acknowledging his ‘outstanding talent,’ in addition to his highly educated background and numerous publications, Chaemsaithong was able to naturalize. Korea invites accomplished scholars from other countries to naturalize by offering a faster naturalization process than other methods. While the waiting list for regular naturalizations and naturalizations through marriage is longer and limits applicants to those who have lived in Korea from two to five years, foreigners with ‘outstanding talent’ can obtain Korean citizenship in just four months, which was how long Chaemsaithong had to wait to get his. Chaemsaithong went through three major steps during his naturalization process: applying for naturalization and submitting the required documents, the Ministry of Justice evaluating his case, and an interview session where he was tested on his knowledge of Korea. He also submitted a letter of recommendation written by Hanyang President Kim Woo-seung. The thesis papers he submitted had to be published no longer than five years in internationally recognized journals, which in his case, amounted to 25 thesis papers.
The last test was the actual interview, which included around 15 to 20 questions about Korean language, culture, history, law, and duties as a citizen, said Chaemsaithong. He added that the Ministry of Justice provided him with a textbook about the things he would be tested on, which he said was around the level of secondary school for Koreans and had many visual aids like cartoons and photos. The passing score is 60 percent. One question that he had difficulty answering was naming four Korean traditional holidays. “So, I said there is Seol (Korean New Year), and there is Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), but I don’t know the other two,” said Chaemsaithong. “There is Dano (spring festival) and other things that didn’t get mentioned in this book, so I didn’t know that.” The final traditional holiday is Hansik, the 105th day after the winter solstice, which means cold food in Korean.
Results came fast as Chaemsaithong said he received a call from a government employee the next day saying that he had passed. In mid-November, Chaemsaithong participated in his oath ceremony in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi-do. He swore an oath to do his duties as a Korean citizen with 14 other naturalizing foreigners.
On the other hand, Professor Michael William Brandon (Center for Creative Convergence Education) has gained the right to stay in Korea through marriage. Brandon is from the United Kingdom and has been living in Korea for over 10 years. He came to Korea with a working visa and later met his wife and has since acquired a marriage visa.
As a foreigner, in order to make his marriage legal in both his native country and Korea, Brandon and his wife needed to get approval from both countries, a task that was challenging, as it needed to be done separately. The process requires a lot of paperwork, which needs to be prepared by both spouses in both native languages and issued by official offices of their home countries. In Brandon’s case, he had to visit the British Embassy, while his wife submitted her paperwork at a city hall. This procedure may cost a lot of money, as papers (a total of 11 required documents) needed to be translated to Korean by qualified transcribers acknowledged by the Korean government. After all the paperwork was submitted to both countries’ offices, the Korean counterpart sorted out the documents and legitimized the couple's marriage.
“They are extremely clear about the documents you need to go through the procedure,” said Brandon. “It's an arduous task because the documentation process requires a lot of work. However, it was also easy because of the clarity involved in the process, so for that, I am quite grateful for both sides.” Brandon also added that, as immigration laws are fluid, people can accidently prepare outdated forms, which would have to be submitted again.
“There are elements that I have been involved with living here in Korea where people have been more accommodating than I would have expected,” said Brandon. “That has made my ability to participate and engage with certain Korean aspects possible, and as a result, it has given me a little bit of feeling that I can also be living here, being part of the generation of elements of Korean culture as well.”
Brandon currently lives with his wife and two children.
Jung Myung-suk firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Kim Ju-eun
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