NEW YORK (March 23, 2010) – For the first time since it adopted the 1951 Refugee Convention almost two decades ago, the Republic of Korea has granted a recognized refugee citizenship, in a move hailed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on Tuesday.The new citizen is a 38-year-old Ethiopian man who fled persecution in his home country and arrived in the ROK in 2001.
“This is a highly significant milestone in Asia, where few countries have signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, and even fewer have extended citizenship to refugees,” said UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming.
“We are grateful to the Republic of Korea for its leadership in local integration, one of the three durable solutions available to refugees, and one that is rarely used in Asia,” she added.
Citizenship, Ms. Fleming pointed out, is the most comprehensive form of local integration, voicing hope that other Asian countries will follow suit.
The ROK recognized its first refugee in 2001. Since its Government began receiving refugee claims in 1994, it has recognized 175 refugees and given humanitarian status to an additional 93 people who were found not to be refugees but still requiring international protection.
Between 1994 and the end of 2009, the country has received nearly 2,500 applications and 321 are still pending.