The reality on South Korea’s refugee crisis


On Sept. 20, South Korea made several changes to its refugee legislation, such as providing humanitarian aid for Myanmar refugees. In previous years, South Korea was known for its impressive framework and support toward the refugees flooding into South Korea. However, a deeper look into the issue shows a different reality.

“Korea has a lot of challenges fighting against the power of homogeneous nature of the country,” said Jonathan Ames, a world history teacher. I empathize and understand Koreans. I think if Korea wanted to be apart of the developed world, they would need to start implementing developed world policies, which is providing for refugee services”

Although the country signed the Refugee Convention in 1951, providing for the status and treatment of refugees, passed the domestic refugee legislation in 2013, giving status and entitlements to refugees and asylum seekers, and set up a refugee resettlement program in 2015, allowing refugees to resettle into a country easily, the country is accepting only a significantly low number of refugees compared to the number of?? programs that were enacted as there are currently only 694 recognized refugees residing in South Korea as of April 30. Government figures indicate that since 1994, 1,144 Syrians have requested asylum in South Korea, but only three Syrians have been granted refugee status.

“I think the controversy surrounding the South Korean policy regarding refugees is somewhat blown out of proportion,” said Sky Park (12), vice president of MUN. “Critics often point to the startling statistic that the Korean government has only accepted three out of 1,144 refugee applications from Syria. However, what these critics do not take into consideration is that more often than not, these “rejected” individuals are given humanitarian aid visas or even other measures to enter the country and reside. It is highly unlikely that they are chased after to be deported, making the “rejection of refugees” an on paper political disaster.”

Despite the lack of admittance of refugees, South Korea has pledged to donate $1.5 million toward the Myanmar refugees through the International Organization for Migration group. With this, Ambassador Ahn Seong-doo believes this donation will contribute to lessening the suffering and improving the living conditions of refugees. Not only did South Korea help with the donations, it is also cooperating with the international community to solve the issue of violence, preventing the fleeing of individuals.

“In my opinion, I think South Korea intends to be very open about accepting on the whole issue of refugees,” said Jaeho Hwang (10), a member of MUN. “However, because South Korea is known to be conservative compared to other countries, they have a difficult time in accepting and giving the title of refugees to individuals.”

Although the acceptance rate is low compared to the programs and legislation, the numbers of refugees in Korea is increasing. South Korea, a generally homogenous country, could possibly have a difficult time in accepting non-Korean refugees due to their different skin color or culture.