By Min Yea-ji and Kim Minji
Photos = Ministry of Justice
“In the past, I lived with a different background and goals but by becoming a citizen of the Republic of Korea at this time today, I will have the same goals as Koreans and become a member of society who strives to make Korea a better country in this global era.”
This was part of a speech given by Kim Sung-hui, 23, who was born in China but moved to Korea at age 14. Attending Korea University and often working as a volunteer, he was one of 65 foreign nationals to gain Korean citizenship on Jan. 21 in a naturalization ceremony at the National Hangeul Museum in Seoul’s Yongsan-gu District.
The ceremony was the first hosted by the government to present certificates confirming Korean citizenship for naturalized citizens, with all 65 reciting the pledge of allegiance. In the past, such people received notice of their naturalization via mail, but this practice was criticized as insufficient for them to feel sense of belonging and pride as Korean citizens.
The Ministry of Justice thus changed the system to require those seeking Korean nationality to attend a ceremony in which they gave the pledge in front of the justice minister and received their naturalization certificates.
Belarusian-born Yuliya Kavetskaya, 17, led the recitation of the pledge. Arriving in Korea at age 9, she attends Sehwa Girls’ High School in Seoul and is on her school’s volleyball team.
The 65 naturalized citizens came from nine countries, including 33 Chinese, 17 Vietnamese and five Filipinos.
President Moon Jae-in said in a congratulatory video message, “Because you chose Korea as your homeland, the nation will get bigger and wider thanks to the love, experience and stories you’ve brought to our country.”
“The Korean government will help each of you achieve your goals in our country, and we kindly ask all of you to be Korean citizens with all your heart.”