RoK extends refugee status to Chinese-Korean

According to Yonhap:

A Seoul court has for the first time granted refugee status to a Korean-Chinese in recognition of his efforts to help North Koreans defect to South Korea, citing the high possibility of persecution in his home country, the court said Sunday.

The Seoul Administrative Court judged as unlawful the justice ministry’s 2010 decision to dismiss the request of the Korean-Chinese man, identified only by his surname Kim, to receive refugee status.

The court said, “It is highly likely that Kim may be suspected of being politically opposed to the Chinese government’s North Korea defector policy, which would constitute persecution for political opinion.”

China’s laws impose punishment as severe as life imprisonment on those who help North Koreans defect from their country, and Kim could face arrest or incarceration if he returns to China, the court noted.

Under the United Nations’ convention, an expatriate can obtain refugee status from another country when the person cannot or is not willing to receive protection from his own country due to a fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion or particular political opinion.

According to the court, Kim, an ethnic Korean with Chinese nationality who has been living in South Korea since 2000, had provided food, residence and guidance to North Koreans who were staying in China and encouraged them to flee their communist home country from 1995-2000.

Kim applied for refugee status with Seoul’s Ministry of Justice last year after the legal duration of his sojourn in South Korea expired. He said he could not return to China for fear of persecution after learning that a person who had coordinated his assistance to North Koreans had been indicted, sentenced to death and killed.

The ministry dismissed Kim’s request last year, saying his aid to North Koreans was not politically motivated, prompting him to file for administrative litigation to overturn the ministry’s decision.

“The court made a very progressive ruling from a humanitarian point of view,” a lawyer representing Kim said. “So far diplomatic relations with China have made it difficult (for the court) to recognize Korean-Chinese as refugees,” he said.

Read the full sotry here:
Court grants refugee status to Korean-Chinese who helped North defectors
Yonhap
2/20/2011

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