Refugee made a Korean citizen for the first time

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Refugee made a Korean citizen for the first time

Korea has granted citizenship to a refugee for the first time since it joined the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees in 1992.

The Justice Ministry announced yesterday that a 38-year-old Ethiopian man was naturalized as a Korean citizen, but gave no further identifying details at the man’s request. The ministry’s nationality and refugee division explained that he had escaped political persecution in his native country and didn’t want to be named in the media.

According to the ministry, only five other refugees have applied for citizenship since 1992. One failed the written test and four others are waiting for their evaluation.

The Ethiopian man applied for his citizenship in March last year. The ministry said it wanted to “honor the spirit of the refugee convention” and granted him citizenship six months earlier than non-refugee applicants.

Under the law on nationality, a person must have lived in Korea for at least five years and have a permanent address here to become a naturalized citizen. The candidate must also be of legal age and be financially independent or have family members who can provide for the candidate.

“He is a very decent man,” the ministry’s statement read. “He owns a home and is working for a mid-sized company. He proved that he’s able to support himself.”

The ministry said the man arrived in Korea in August 2001 to escape persecution for his involvement in an opposition political party. He sought political asylum in September 2004 and was granted refugee status in September 2005.

There are currently 177 refugees in Korea, according to the Justice Ministry. The first person to be granted refugee status, in 2001, was another Ethipian named Degu Dadasse Deresse.

The UN convention defines a refugee and lists the rights of those who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of countries that grant asylum. It was approved in 1951 and entered effect in 1954. A total of 147 countries have signed the treaty or a related 1967 protocol.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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