December 1992 Acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and 1967 Protocol
February 2001 Recognized its first refugee
July 2013 Enforced the Refugee Act of Korea
December 2015 Launched a pilot resettlement program for refugees
POPULATION OF CONCERN
Refugees & Humanitarian Status Holders
As of 30 April 2022, a total of 3,618 persons have been recognized as refugees or granted humanitarian status by the government of the Republic of Korea.
The majority of the persons holding humanitarian status are from Syria and Yemen.
Working with Partners
■ The role of UNHCR in the Republic of Korea is to engage with the government, judiciary, legislature, the National Human Rights Commission, NGOs, civil society and persons of concern to improve the domestic protection system and the treatment of asylum-seekers, refugees and other persons of concern. It also includes ensuring the respect for their rights and the principle of non-refoulement.
Support to Korea’s national asylum system
■ The Republic of Korea acceded to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol in 1992 and began registering asylum-seekers in 1994, with the first recognition of refugee status in 2001. The Refugee Act, its Presidential Decree and Enforcement Regulation came into force on 1 July 2013. It is the first stand-alone comprehensive refugee law in the Republic of Korea and represents a significant enhancement of refugee protection. UNHCR monitors the implementation and reform of the Act in line with the 1951 Convention and provides technical assistance.
■ The numbers of new applications slowly increased over the years with a total of 15,452 persons applying for asylum in 2019. However, with the pandemic and the limitations imposed to travel and visa policies, the number of new applications decreased significantly for the last two consecutive years, with 6,684 new applications in 2020 and 2,143 for the year 2021 [Ministry of Justice (“MoJ”) statistics published on 21 December 2021].
■ UNHCR advises and supports the MoJ and its Korea Immigration Service and Immigration Offices, which handle asylum applications in the Republic of Korea, with a view to ensure that decisions are made in accordance with international standards.
■ UNHCR establishes and maintains partnerships with a range of NGOs to improve support and services to asylum-seekers and refugees in areas such as legal aid, accommodation, employment, education and health services as well as peaceful coexistence and refugee empowerment.
■ UNHCR provides technical assistance to the Government of the Republic of Korea on resettlement. The Office also advises government, non-government and private partners on solutions in the context of responsibility sharing and in the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees.