Re-Examining Nationality in Aging Asia: Insights from Japan and South Korea

By Aizawa Nobuhiro

Several countries in Asia have recently amended their nationality laws, including the Philippines (2003), India (2003), Indonesia (2006), Taiwan (2006), Thailand (2008), Japan (2008), Vietnam (2009), and South Korea (2010). Was it mere coincidence that these countries reassessed their nationality laws? Or did they have important reasons to discard variously ‘outdated’ clauses in the face of sharp public debates and political contestations over issues of nationhood? This policy commentary provides background and context towards understanding some key issues that motivate changes to nationality laws in Asia, especially in Japan and South Korea. It suggests that the issue of nationality has become bound up with the dynamics and political implications of ‘human flows’ in Asia.

Changing Nationality Laws

The key changes over nationality laws revolve around two points. First, there are moves to redefine the legal status of the children of international marriage and divorce because of the increase in international marriage over the past 20 years in Asia. Second, governments must decide whether to accept dual/multiple nationality status which Asian countries were long reluctant to acknowledge because of Cold War politics and complex colonial legacies.

Two major amendments to nationality laws in Japan and South Korea may serve as good illustrations. Read more of this post

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