SEOUL – Former K-Pop star Steve Yoo, a Korean American who renounced his South Korean citizenship allegedly to evade conscription in 2002 and has been listed on the country’s entry ban list since then, has asked to return in a YouTube channel.

Men over age 18 are required to perform military service in South Korea. An exemption from conscription is rarely granted except for physical restrictions, but the draft is not compulsory for women.

The former ‘90s superstar, a South Korean citizen and a U.S. permanent resident at the time, expressed his willingness to enlist in the military like most other celebrities. But while visiting the U.S. on Jan. 18, 2002, months before his scheduled enlistment, Yoo took an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. at a Los Angeles court and gave up his South Korean passport.

Yoo’s career collapsed as the sudden renunciation of South Korean citizenship was widely interpreted as an attempt to dodge military service and a broken promise. With South Korea technically still at war with North Korea, avoiding military service or receiving special treatment while in service remain a sensitive issue.

In response to a public outcry, the Military Manpower Administration banned Yoo from entering the county. South Korean border control agents denied entry to Yoo when he attempted to visit Seoul two weeks after becoming an American citizen in 2002. Yoo insists the U.S. citizenship was not an attempt to evade Korean military service.

He was only allowed to enter the country once – in June 2003 for three days to attend the funeral of his fiancée’s father.

In December, Yoo used his YouTube channel to appeal for an end to the entry ban.

“Am I a political criminal, a public enemy, or a murderer? Am I a child rapist?” said Yoo in a video. “Do I really appear to be a person who wants to damage national interests or public safety when entering South Korea?”

In October 2015, Yoo filed a lawsuit against the South Korean Consulate General in Los Angeles for refusing to grant him a visa. The country’s top court ruled months before Yoo’s video release that it was unlawful for the diplomatic mission to deny his visa without considering other factors.

The top court’s decision does not automatically guarantee Yoo’s entrance. “The authorities will continue to deny visa based on precedents and the records of denial will not play in favor of Yoo’s future litigations,” explained Choi Min-hyung, a lawyer at Donggwang Law Firm.

The chief of the Military Manpower Administration reaffirmed during a parliamentary audit in October 2020 that the entry ban on Yoo should stay in place as his entry would frustrate young South Koreans who serve their required military duty.