PERRYSBURG, Ohio (WTVG) - Tong Yi, owner of the Tea Tree Asian Bistro in Perrysburg, has been prevented from returning home from South Korea due to a law requiring all Korean-born men to report to the military after they turn 18. Yi was born in Korea, but immigrated to the United States, where he later became a citizen, when he was nine. He also served in the U.S. military from 2004-2012.
According to a social media post written by Yi, he was stopped at the airport when he attempted to board his plane back to Ohio. He was sent to the police station in Seoul where he was arrested and held for several hours. He had traveled to Korea after his father passed away suddenly and was unaware of the law requiring he report for Korean military service.
Speaking to 13abc on Friday, Yi said he was released when he showed that he was a U.S. citizen, but was called back to the police station the next day and told he would not be permitted to return to the U.S. until March 2. Officials in Korea could not explain why they decided to continue the travel ban.
Yi has actually been to Korea twice since becoming a U.S. citizen, both times as part of his U.S. military service. He was protected at those times by that affiliation with the military, but since this time he returned as a civilian he retained no such protection.
Yi says he posted on Facebook out of desperation, feeling he had nowhere else to go after the embassy said they could not help him get home. He says he is getting a lot of support as a result of that post.