Falun Gong devotee named refugee

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Falun Gong devotee named refugee

The Seoul High Court recognized a Chinese woman yesterday as a refugee who can’t live in her homeland because of her belief in Falun Gong, the meditation-based religion banned in China.

The 40-year-old woman surnamed Wang, who has been working in Korea and was involved in promoting the religion, filed the case against Korean Minister of Justice Lee Kwi-nam after the Justice Ministry rejected her request to be acknowledged as a refugee.

Wang came to Korea in 2001 for economic reasons and become a Falun Gong practitioner in 2004.

She was hired as a reporter in the Korea bureau of NTDTV, a Falun Gong-affiliated, Chinese language network based in New York. She is also a vocal critic of Chinese Communist Party.

“There are grounds for Wang to feel afraid of being persecuted by the Chinese government because she has been reporting China’s crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners on NTDTV,” the verdict reads.

“The word refugee not only refers to a person who fled China because of threats but also someone who is likely to be persecuted by the government if she returns because of her active involvement [in Falun Gong practices] in Korea.”

A lower court rejected Wang’s plea because it suspected Wang was using Falun Gong as a way of extending her stay in Korea, especially since Wang didn’t practice Falun Gong in China.

Yesterday’s verdict, however, found Wang’s motive believable. This was the first time a local court acknowledged a Falun Gong devotee as a refugee.

Falun Gong was founded in China in 1992 and boasts more than 100 million practitioners in 60 countries, according to the Falun Gong Information Center. The practice is banned in China and the government has brutally cracked down on its followers.

In 2008, the Seoul Administrative Court gave refugee status to two Korean-Chinese Falun Gong practitioners who fled China, but the ruling was overturned in appeals. In March, the Supreme Court upheld the overturned ruling.

By Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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