The Supreme Court has ruled the government ban on former singer Yoo Seung-jun from entering Korea due to his failure to perform mandatory military service, did not adhere to due administrative procedure, leaving open the possibility for him to return to Korea 17 years after the restriction was imposed.
The court overturned Thursday lower courts' rulings that approved the immigration authorities' refusal to issue visas for Yoo, sending the case back to the Seoul High Court.
The top court said the consulate general had the discretionary power to consider various factors when deciding on visa issuance, but it did not exercise that power and only followed the ministry's entry ban decided upon more than 13 years before the visa request, concluding it was against proper administrative procedure.
It also said it was also in violation of administrative regulations for the consulate general to inform Yoo of the visa rejection only via phone without sending a written decision.
If the high court rules in favor of Yoo in its new hearing, the LA consulate general will have to make a decision on his visa again, this time by exercising its discretionary power. And the chances of issuance seem high.
In the late 1990s, Yoo, who was enjoying high popularity, promised numerous times on TV that he would serve in the military and even underwent a physical examination.
But he gave up his Korean citizenship, stirring public outrage. The ministry then banned him from entering the country, saying his actions would "spread the tendency" to avoid military service.
Later he worked as a singer and actor in China.
In September 2015, Yoo applied for the visa and then filed the lawsuit. The lower courts ruled against him, saying "If Yoo comes back and is active as a celebrity, it will lower the morale of conscripted soldiers and could encourage young men to dodge their military duty."
Earlier this year, Yoo released his first album in 12 years titled "Another Day," full of songs "repenting" his past behaviors and asking fans for forgiveness.
"I'm still dreaming of a day when I can get close to you. Every one of the lyrics in my songs is expressing my life and confession," Yoo wrote on Instagram.