Home > Migrants, Racial Discrimination > Korea Gov.’s high rejection rate to refugee status brings legal fights

Korea Gov.’s high rejection rate to refugee status brings legal fights

Jun 15, 2010

By MyungJin Lee

In March of 2010, the first naturalized South Korean citizenship was granted to a 38-year-old Ethiopian man who fled Ethiopia in 2001. However, this milestone event granting citizenship seems to not be an extension to other refugees seeking asylum status in South Korea. As such, these desperate people have filed law suits against the Ministry of Justice in Korea.

Since 1992, when South Korea adopted the 1951 Refugee Convention, the Korea government has received asylum status claims beginning in 1994 and the first refugee entered South Korea in 2001. Overall, between 1994 and 2009, the South Korean government received total 2,492 applications, mostly from North Korea.

However, the Korea Justice Department has rejected 994 refugees in 2009 which has been deemed sudden and unusual. A number of refugees who seek legal resolutions are dramatically increasing; 121 cases have been filed to the Seoul Administrative Court from January to May of 2010 compared to 15 cases in 2008.

These decisions were made to maintain strong national security, particularly due to North Korean defectors being revealed as espionage agents. Of the recent defectors turned spy, Kim, a 36 year-old female North Korean defector, is under custody. According to Yonhap News, she reportedly passed herself off as a refugee from the closed communist state, then began a relationship with a former subway employee, who handed her classified information including emergency contacts for Seoul’s subway system. South Korean authorities fear the information could be used by the north for terrorist attacks.

As a result of the policies, the South Korean Justice Department has rejected hundreds of asylum status applications from refugees. Desperate people have come to the Seoul Administrative Court, but because of time and money constraints it “has a limit to solve the entire problem,” said one court official close to the matter.

Since most refugees do not receive legal status in Korea, they cannot be employed and earn money. As such, receiving aids from non-profit organizations is the only way for most to survive in Korea. A high NGO official stated that “refugee applicants hope for increased services” to protect more refugees in Korea help restart their lives.

  1. September 30, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    So North Korea has introduced a successor to the regime. This might actually be the perfect idea in that it may end in a little stability to that tricky part of the world. I do think it is not likely that a Berlin Wall type situation will come about consequently best to choose a more softening attitude as has occured with China it’s main supporter

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