Korean Law Demystified!

South Korea: How Drug Use Can Lead to Deportation


On December 30, 2015, a (Korean-American) female entertainer was deported from South Korea. The backstory:

1. In 2012, she was found guilty of possession and use of Propofol. (She stole ampoules from a clinic and later injected one at a nail salon.) The Chuncheon District Court sentenced her to 8 months in prison (but 2 years probation). Probation means she did not have to actually spend time in jail. (Well, she was in a cell during trial.) The court also ordered 40 hours of community service and 24 hours of drug rehab classes.

2. In 2014, she was found guilty of possession and use of Ambien (while on probation for the above crime). The Seoul Central District Court fined her 5 mil won. According to reports, she had received 85 tablets of Ambien from a person she was taking the court-ordered drug rehab classes with. (She used 15 of them.) She, at the time, claimed she had prescriptions for Ambien but decided not to appeal the guilty decision.

In early 2015, the Seoul Immigration Office ordered that she leave the Republic of Korea. (This must have been unexpected for her, or else she would have by all means appealed the 2014 guilty decision.) The legal grounds for the order must have been (at least) one of the following:

1. A contagious patient, a narcotics addict or other persons deemed likely to cause danger and harm to public health.

2. A person deemed highly likely to commit any act detrimental to the interests of the Republic of Korea or public safety.

3. A person deemed highly likely to commit any act detrimental to the economic/social order or good morals.

At any rate, she tried hard to revoke the order via suit. The trial and appellate courts both rejected her claim. Some reports say, the courts sided with immigration (especially) because of the impact she had on the public + it seemed unlikely she was (now) going to abide the law. In November 2015, she could’ve appealed (one last time) to the Supreme Court, but she decided not to. So she had to leave by the end of the year.

Note: In this post, I use the terms “deported” and “deportation” broadly. Technically speaking, there exist: Recommendation for Departure (출국권고) – Departure Order (출국명령) – Deportation Order (강제퇴거명령). So technically, she received a Departure Order (which she abided by).

Tidbit: According to the Korean Ministry of Justice, over 100,000 have been deported from South Korea during the five years, 2010 – 2014.

Did You Know? You can even be deported for crimes of violence. 

[Seoul High Court; Reported on March 10, 2015]

A Chinese national (of Korean descent) residing in South Korea was ordered to leave the country via a “departure order” issued by immigration. (He would also not be able to re-enter for one year.) The “departure order” was issued when the Chinese national applied for a F-4 visa. (He had an expiring H-2 visa.) The reasoning for issuing the order was that he was “implicated in crime at least 3 times in the last 5 years.” (They were all crimes of violence.) The order was issued even though he was convicted only once. The two other times, he was able to reach a settlement with the victims and as a result avoided prosecution. The Seoul High Court reversed the lower court decision which had found the order invalid/unlawful. The Seoul High Court reasoned that the immigration office has wide discretion regarding such matters and wide discretion is indeed necessary for national public safety purposes. (Link)

Thank you for reading!

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