Friday, September 15, 2006

South Korea on accepting refugees, North Korean and otherwise

Under South Korea's constitution, North Koreans are regarded as citizens of the South, and Seoul has welcomed some 8,500 North Korean defectors. For defectors from the North, the government provides support for career education, housing and some $10,500 in settlement aid per person along with three months of assimilation training.

But the situation for other refugees is drastically different. It wasn't until 2001 that South Korea even granted asylum to its first non-Korean refugee, and it has denied 229 asylum applications. Still awaiting a decision are 445 refugees, while 94 have withdrawn their requests and 35 were allowed three-month stays on humanitarian grounds but not granted refugee status.

So refugees from [countries other than North Korea get little] help, and they are banned from working until they are granted asylum, forcing them to struggle for their survival. "There are no other ways for refugee-seekers to support themselves except to steal or work illegally," said Hwang Pil-gyu, a lawyer who helps refugees seek asylum.

[Associated Press]

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