Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Korean student’s application for visa again denied

January 21, 2004


A Kansas University student from South Korea has lost the second round in her effort to return to the United States.

Kyungmee Choi, a KU student since 1987, late last week had her visa denied a second time by the U.S. Embassy in Seoul. The denial came despite lobbying by Rep. Dennis Moore and KU's Legal Services for Students.

Christie Appelhanz, a spokeswoman for Moore, D-Kan., said her office was convinced the embassy was following U.S. rules by not allowing Choi to return.

"We can't ask them to bend the laws," she said. "It's a sad situation, but there doesn't appear to be anything else we can do with it. The case is closed."

Choi, the subject of a story in the Journal-World in November, was a Ph.D. candidate in English. After coming to the United States in 1987, she said she discovered her English wasn't as strong as she initially thought and had to take incomplete grades on her course work and fell behind in her program.

She began to take art classes in 1996, which she admits took her focus off her Ph.D. By May 2003, she had decided to drop out of the English program and pursue a degree in art, which she thought was her true calling.

Choi, 44, returned to Korea in July, when the embassy first decided not to renew her visa. The consul general cited that officials didn't have proof Choi would return to Korea after finishing her education, which is required under U.S. law. He also cited her long stay in the United States.

In her second application, Choi contended that she always has wanted to return to Korea, where her parents and much of her family still live. She wants to create or teach art there.

She also received letters of support from Moore's office and from Jo Hardesty, director of KU's Legal Services for Students.

"The denial of Ms. Choi's application is a devastating social, cultural, economic and artistic loss for all parties involved -- her home country of South Korea, the many American and Korean students' lives she would have touched had she been allowed to finish her course of study, the University of Kansas and its art department and professors, Ms. Choi's friends and family, and most importantly for herself," Hardesty wrote.

Choi didn't return messages seeking an interview after her visa was denied last week. The U.S. embassy doesn't comment on specific cases.

But Patrick Enright, a friend who teaches at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., said Choi plans to reapply one more time.

"Her application had good arguments addressing the consulate's objections," he said. "She has one more opportunity for a written petition, but naturally she's feeling quite discouraged and doubtful that it will work."

Richard Hardin, Choi's English adviser, blamed the situation on a post-Sept. 11 crackdown on immigration.

"I think it's part of what's going on in our country now -- with such a fear of terrorism or something," he said. "Her case is probably multiplied thousands of times all over."

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