S. Korean Name-Change Law Aids Illegal Reentry To Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Osaka), Feb. 20, 2007

A 44-year-old South Korean woman who was deported last spring for illegally entering the country was found to have reentered Japan twice in a year by changing her name, although the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law does not permit deportees to reenter Japan for five years, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The woman was issued a passport under the new name and came to Japan in August 2006, three months after she was deported, and again in January.

Because of a South Korean Supreme Court decision in November 2005 facilitating name changes, similar illegal entries into Japan by South Koreans reportedly have been increasing. Immigration authorities have strengthened their measures to halt illegal entries in the country through such ruses.

The Osaka Regional Immigration Bureau and the Osaka prefectural police said the woman, Choe Mi Gyon, was arrested in April last year, when she was working as a hostess in a bar in Kita Ward, Osaka, on suspicion of violating the immigration law as she had no passport. She was subsequently deported.

She changed her name to Choe Yoon Yong and was issued a visa to reenter Japan in July and worked for two months at the bar where she had previously worked. She returned home temporarily in October, reentered Japan in January and worked again at the same bar.

Following a tip-off, she was arrested again on Feb. 1 by the regional immigration bureau and the police. She currently is detained at an immigration facility in Osaka Prefecture.

The woman said she changed her name because she was deported.

The South Korean top court ruling says name changes are permissible as long as they are not made for criminal purposes. The number of name change cases in South Korea rose nearly 100 percent in the year after the ruling.

After the implementation of the revised immigration law in autumn this year, fingerprinting and photographic identification systems will be introduced at international airports and seaports, making it harder for illegal entries of the latest kind to be reported to be made.

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