Korean court grants refugee status to Russian draft dodger

By Park Ung Posted : June 13, 2024, 17:37 Updated : June 13, 2024, 17:51
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SEOUL, June 13 (AJU PRESS) - A Russian man who fled his country to avoid being forced to fight in the war against Ukraine, has been granted a refugee status in Korea, it was revealed this week.

In a verdict on May 22, the Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, whose name is unidentified.

In February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the Russian posted anti-war messages on social media and participated in protests opposing the war. Then he left Russia to avoid conscription in November and arrived in Korea.

He applied for refugee status in January last year, saying that he could face punishment if forced to return to his country. But immigration authorities here rejected his application, prompting him to file a lawsuit against the Seoul Immigration Office in April.

The court recognized his fear of persecution due to his outspoken opposition to the war, saying that, "The Russian has consistently expressed his views on the war, through anti-war messages posted on social media and also protested against the war by participating in rallies."

The court also took into account Russia's harsh penalties for draft evasion, including up to 10 years of imprisonment and possible death in some cases.

Under the UN's Refugee Convention, Korea provides protection to those facing persecution based on factors like race, religion, or political beliefs.

A previous Supreme Court ruling determined that mere avoidance of conscription might not be enough to justify refugee status, but if seen as an expression of political opinion, it warrants recognition.

Meanwhile, according to a report by the Ministry of Justice, Korea saw some 18,838 applications for refugee status last year alone, about 63-percent increase from the previous year. Russians accounted the largest group with 5,750 cases, followed by Kazakhs (2,094), Chinese (1,282), Malaysians (1,205) and Indians (1,189). The most commonly cited reason for seeking refugee was "political opinion."
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