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 Or did they have important reasons to discard variously ‘outdated’ clauses in the face of sharp public debates and political contestations over issues of nationhood?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.

Key Points

  • 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.
  • In Japan, influential voices, primarily from the business sector, have urged the government to relax conditions for acquiring Japanese nationality.
  • The higher percentage and more rapid increase of international marriage in South Korea (compared to Japan) and various issues of social integration helped to shape public opinion and push the government to reform its nationality law. • Unlike the government in South Korea, the Kan Cabinet in Japan has yet to form a party or public consensus on a new law on dual nationality.
  • The aging society of Asia’s developed countries and the population growth of its developing countries will together intensify intra-regional competition to attract ‘the best and the brightest’ while managing flows of cheap labor.

Read the rest of the Policy Commentary here

By Aizawa Nobuhiro, Institute for Developing Economies, Japan