Sunday, February 20, 2011

First court decision bestowing refugee status on a Korean-Chinese

A Korean-Chinese is to be recognized as a refugee if at risk of persecution for helping North Korean defectors upon returning to China, a Seoul court said.

The Korean-Chinese, surnamed Kim, had filed a suit against the South Korean justice minister to annul the ministry’s decision which denied him refugee status. He had sought refugee status in January of last year.

The court said Kim was likely to be subjected to criminal punishment if he were to go back to China because he had provided food and transportation to North Korean defectors in China. One of his colleagues had already been punished for doing collaborative work.

“Considering the maximum penalty in Chinese law is a life sentence for people who are caught helping North Korean defectors, Kim may be arrested if he returns to China even though he wasn’t actively involved in aid work,” the court said in the ruling.

Kim provided North Korean defectors with food and transportation to airports between 1995 and 2000 at the request of one of his colleagues. He came to Korea in September 2000 as a migrant worker, and heard from his wife in China that his colleague was executed for the aid work.

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