Original article in Korean is at this link.

On the 8th the Seoul Administrative Courts’ 12th division (chief judge Park Tae-jun) overturned the decision of the trial  in the lawsuit of Mr. K, who is from Baluchistan (a region in the southwest of Pakistan), seeking to order the Immigration Service to recognize his status as a refugee. This is first time a court has recognized the refugee status of a person from Baluchistan.

The court wrote that “Mr. K established that he has a well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of ethnicity or political viewpoint.” The court continued, “it must be concluded that there is a likelihood of persecution in Pakistan.”

Mr. K has been active in the independence group Baloch National Movement since 1995, was shot by secret police in 2007, and entered Korea using a passport with a false name in order to escape the government’s watchful eyes. Mr. K was caught with the false passport and placed in immigration detention in Yeosu, where he filed the lawsuit for refugee status.

The court said of his entering the country under an assumed name that “since he arrived owing to the fears of persecution, such as torure and murder, arising from his independence activism, he did so to ensure his safety in leaving Pakistan.”

The Baluchistan region, which has a high population of Baluchistanis, a minority group originally from Iran, has seen an independence movement for nearly over 60 years, and in the summer of 2008 over 100 people were killed while over 250 disappeared and another 20,000 were forcibly relocated. Mr. K and his family were forcibly relocated to Karachi, which borders Baluchistan, in 1993.

According to the Ministry of Justice, through September of this year 4,835 people had, like Mr. K, sought refugee status in Korea to avoid persecution in their home countries. There were 43 such cases in 2000 and just 423 in 2010 and 1,011 last year. There had been 909 cases this year through September. Following the arrival of the “era of one million foreign laborers” it appears that Korea is becoming a nation where refugees may arrive. Shin Hye-in, a public information officer in Korea for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that “the increasing number of applications for refugee status appears to be due to increased global troubles in war-stricken areas and so on… Korea is generally a transit country rather than a final destination, so increases are occurring in more than just Korea.”

In contrast to the increasing number of refugee applications, cases in which they are granted remain low. Through September of this year just 6.1%, or 299, of the applications  had been granted by either the Ministry of Justice or the Seoul Administrative Courts. Of the greatly increased number of 1,011 applications last year, just 4.1%, or 42, were granted. The low rate may be due to fears that migrant workers may abuse the process.