Korea's Refugee Act: A Critical Evaluation under International Law

Author:Andrew Wolman
Pages:479-495
SUMMARY

On December 29, 2011, the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea passed the Law on the Status and Treatment of Refugees, which went into effect on July 1, 2013. The law was the culmination of years of effort by the government, NGOs, UNHCR and the lawmakers. It has been widely praised by civil society groups in Korea. However, there has been little critical analysis of its provisions whether... (see full summary)

 
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Korea’s Refugee Act
479
VI JEAIL 2 (2013)
Andrew Wolman
On December 29, 2011, the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea passed
the Law on the Status and Treatment of Refugees, which went into effect on
July 1, 2013. The law was the culmination of years of effort by the government,
NGOs, UNHCR and the lawmakers. It has been widely praised by civil society
groups in Korea. However, there has been little critical analysis of its provisions
whether it will truly be a successful legislation. This research critically evaluates
whether the new law is likely to promote Korean compliance with international
legal standards, namely, the 1951 Refugee Convention and major human rights
treaties. It finds that while the law represents a significant improvement over
current practices, it possesses problematic provisions related to detention, refugee
determination, economic and social rights of asylum-seekers, and the treatment
of recognized refugees. This essay will conclude by highlighting four outstanding
implementation questions that could impact compliance with international
standards.
Keywords
Refugee Act, 1951 Refugee Convention, UNHCR, Refugee Rights,
Asylum-Seekers
Korea
s Refugee Act:
A Critical Evaluation
under International Law
Associate Professor at the Graduate School of International and Area Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
A.B.(Princeton), J.D.(NYU), LL.M.(GWU). He may be contacted at: amw247@yahoo.com / Address: 270 Imun-
Dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Globeedorm, #A806, Seoul 130-791 Korea. This article was supported by the 2012 Hankuk
University of Foreign Studies Research Fund.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14330/jeail.2013.6.2.07
480 Andrew Wolman
1. Introduction
After years of intense discussion and consultations between lawmakers, the
government, local civil society organizations and the local office of the United
Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), the National Assembly of
the Republic of Korea
1
passed the Law on the Status and Treatment of Refugees
    
The Refugee
      
       

Although the Refugee Act has been generally praised by observers, there has
been little critical analysis of its provisions or consideration of whether it will
truly be successful in bringing Korea into compliance with its obligations under
     
       
and assessing whether the law will lead to the effective fulfillment of Koreas
     
    
refugee policy in Korea in Part two, Part three will provide an overview of the new
  
      
an evaluation of the Refugee Acts compliance with international norms in four key
    

2. A Brief History of Korean Refugee Policy
    
1 The Republic of Korea will be referred to as ‘Korea’ for the sake of brevity.
2 Law No. 11298 (proclaimed Feb. 10, 2012, enforced July 1, 2013).
3 Chul Hyo Kim, A Step Forward to Refugee Protection? South Korea’s New Refugee Act, 2 OxfOrd MOnitOr Of
fOrced MigratiOn 8 (2012).

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