South rejects Chinese-N’s asylum claims. Korean defectors

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – South Korea has rejected refugee status for ethnic Chinese people who have been “stateless” since they fled North Korea years ago, two of the applicants and a activist group.

Unlike North Korean deserters, who receive citizenship, near-free apartments, and other financial assistance in South Korea, ethnic North Korean Chinese are denied access to these benefits if they retain Chinese nationality in North Korea. About 30 of them have been designated as “stateless” in South Korea after authorities detected their attempts to pass themselves off as North Korean citizens and arrested them, observers say.

The designation of “stateless” makes it extremely difficult for them to find work and receive basic services provided by the government. Four of them subsequently applied for refugee status in 2019, saying they wanted better treatment because their families have lived in North Korea for generations and faced political repression and economic hardship similar to what most citizens face. North Koreans.

Last week, however, the South Korean Ministry of Justice notified them that their asylum requests had been rejected, said Kim Yong-hwa, a North Korean defector-turned activist who helped the four with their asylum applications. .

Kim’s organization sent the Associated Press a photo of the ministry’s notification to an applicant named Yoon. According to the ministry, the ministry said it does not appear to have “suffered threats of persecution in China and North Korea”. He also said the ministry cannot help determine that he is a Chinese citizen based on his review of his testimony and comments from the South Korean spy agency.

Kim said the other three candidates received nearly identical notifications.

The Ministry of Justice did not immediately respond to requests from the PA to confirm the rejection of the requests. However, pushbacks were largely anticipated as South Korea’s acceptance rate for refugee status applications has been less than 2% in recent years.

“It makes absolutely no sense to say that there was (no evidence) that they suffered oppression in North Korea. They can be killed if they return to North Korea and are captured there, “Kim said.

He previously claimed that at least one ethnic Chinese was executed in North Korea after failing to settle in South Korea and returning home.

Reached by phone, Yoon and another candidate Cho Guk-gyeong confirmed the denials.

“I have no hope now that my asylum application has been rejected,” Cho said in a statement provided by Kim. “Now I’m here to return. I want to live with a minimum level of human dignity “.

Kim said the ministry asked the four applicants to petition for registration cards of aliens with better residential status. Kim said she doesn’t understand why they have to petition for leniency, but they plan to see what improvements in their status they could achieve.

In previous interviews with the AP, Cho and other ethnic Chinese have said they consider themselves North Koreans because they were born and raised in the north. They said they could still retain Chinese nationality in North Korea and visit China once or twice a year for cross-border business. They said the authorities monitored them more intensively than North Korean citizens.

They said they would face harsh punishment if they returned to North Korea. They also say that it would be very difficult to move to China because they don’t speak Chinese and have lost contact with relatives there and that it could take years to get local residence cards in China.

Cho spent a year in prison and Yoon 20 months in a government-run detention center for lying about their nationality in North Korea.

Some experts say that around 3,000-5,000 ethnic Chinese live in North Korea and are the only foreigners with permanent residency rights among North Korea’s 26 million people. About 34,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea for economic and political reasons since the late 1990s.

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