||Moon Tae-jong, left, and Moon Tae-young, right - who play professional basketball in Korea - were granted Korean citizenship.
Two half-Korean brothers playing professional basketball in Korea were granted Korean citizenship Thursday, the Justice Ministry said, giving them eligibility for the Korean national team.
The ministry said Moon Tae-jong, born Jarod Stevenson, and Moon Tae-young, born Greg Stevenson, received their citizenship thanks to a revised immigration law. Under the law, people of Korean descent who were born overseas or those of Korean background with overseas citizenship deemed to have the talent to contribute to Korea are permitted to carry multiple citizenships. They must also pledge to give up their rights as foreign nationals while in Korea.
In the past, the government required those born outside the country to choose one nationality before their 22nd birthday.
The Moons were born to a Korean-American mother in Seoul but had only carried U.S. citizenships. They had played in pro leagues in Germany, Turkey, Russia and Spain, among other places.
Tae-jong, 35, joined the ET Land Elephants of the Korean Basketball League, the top-flight league, last year. Tae-young, 33, came a year earlier, signing with the LG Sakers.
Both were selected in a special draft for half-Korean players. Tae-young finished second in league scoring last season, averaging just over 22 points per game, while Tae-jong was fifth with 17.4 points per game.
“The brothers haven’t lived here for three years and didn’t meet the legal requirement for naturalization, but they were recognized as special talent,” the Justice Ministry said. “After recommendation by the Korea Basketball Association and the Korean Olympic Committee, our review committee unanimously decided to award the brothers citizenship.”
The Moons are now eligible to represent Korea in international tournaments. Tae-jong has been placed on the preliminary roster for September’s Asian championships, which will be the qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics.
“I will try my best to represent Korea and help us get to the Olympics,” Tae-jong said in Korean. “It’s an honor to play in my mother’s country, and the place of my birth. Our mom is scheduled to come here next month and she’s going to like this.”
Tae-young said he was “happy” to have become a Korean citizen and added, “If my brother doesn’t make the national team, I will take up a spot next year.”
The ministry said it has so far awarded citizenships to five talented overseas Koreans, and the Moons are the first athletes.