FORWARDED APPEAL (South Korea): Denial of refugee status for Burmese nine 

Dear friends,

Please find below a statement issued by a group of Korean non-governmental organisations regarding nine Burmese National League for Democracy (NLD) members, whose refugee applications have been rejected.  Having been informed that they will be deported on 18 July 2005, the nine persons are planning to take their case to the court with the help of the Korean NGO groups.

In the meantime, the Minister of Justice has recognised twelve Jumma people, an indigenous group native to the Chittagong Hill Tract, a mountainous area of southern Bangladesh, as refugees. However, only three Burmese activists working for democracy in Burma have been recognised as refugees by the Minister of Justice.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
[Joint Statement]

The Korean government’s disapproval to grant refugee status to Burmese activists for democratization of Burma is unjust and the Korean government should reconsider its decision

1. April 20th 2005, Korean government made its final decision not to grant refugee status to 9 Burmese activists and ordered them to leave Korea in 5 days. It was final decision on the activists appeal filed 17th on the Ministry of Justice (MOJ)’s decision made on the 11th of March. However we, civil organizations of Korea that support the democratization of Burma and protect universal value of human rights suspect that there has been a serious error in the evaluation process and insist the Korean government should reconsider its unfair decision.

2. These 9 applicants applied for the refugee status 5 years ago, in May 2000. However, since then the Korean government left them in negligence without providing minimum protection and support to which the applicants are entitled and did not make an effort in collecting evidence that could affect in determining applicants eligibility to gain refugee status. In this regard, it was a shock to hear that 5 years after, all of a sudden, the Korean government announced its decision to reject applications and ordered them to leave Korea within 5 days. Luckily, on the 18th, the applicants submitted a request to gain an approval to extend their stay and were granted 3 months extension. However, the extension means nothing more than some time given for the preparation of departure and they will certainly be deported from Korea after 3 months.

3. The reason for Korean governments rejection of applications submitted, in fear of political oppression, by the Burmese activists is that in light of information and statement submitted by the applicants, they do not fall under the category of a sufficiently reasonable fear state provided by the Article 5 of the Refugee Agreement. The decision casts doubts over whether the Korean government was aware of Burmas military dictatorship and whether the decision took Burmese activists efforts in Korea for democratization of Burma into consideration.

4. According to the assertions made by the applicants, not even once, an appropriate translation support was provided in the 5 years of evaluation. Furthermore, even if the interview should be conducted individually for individuals private life and protection, the interviewers from immigration office asked them several questions about how they were getting along in a high handed manner in the same place at the same time. Due to communication problems during the interview, the assertions and situations of the applicants were not properly conveyed. To find out whether it actually was the case, the applicants requested the immigration office to show the interviews but it was rejected. After that, Citizens Action Network, one of Koreas civil organizations requested MOJ to release the information on guidance MOJ follows to grant refugee status to the public but also rejected on the ground that it is relevant facts to the nation! al security, defense, reunification and diplomatic relations. As a result, these applicants do not know according to what guide line their applications were rejected.

5. MOJ overlooked the uniqueness of present political situation of Burma as mentioned previously. The 9 applicants are activists who fought for democratization of Burma for 40 years since 1962 against the military dictatorship. In Korea, they participated in street campaigns and demonstrations in front of Burmese embassy to gain concern and support from Korean people and assemblies and demonstrations for democratization of Burma and overthrow of the military dictatorship. Thus, it is easy to guess that the Burmese military government already has information about who these activists are through Burmese embassy in Korea. Considering that currently thousands of innocent students and civilians have been sentenced to capital punishment or imprisoned for a long time for their efforts in democratization of Burma without proper legal procedures. The claim that their activities do not fall under a sufficiently reasonable fear state is not persuasive. Furthermore, when the applicants were informed of rejection, the investigators did not take the situation of Burma seriously and even made a harsh and insensitive comment about that.  Even if you go back to Burma, you are not likely to be killed. As citizens of Korea, we can not even imagine the sorrow these people must have felt from insincere attitude of investigators and disappointment in the response of the Korean government.

6. We, civil organizations believe that despite serious error in the evaluation process of granting refugee status, the Korean governments notice to applicants of the rejection and deportation order can not be justified and it is an irresponsible act that will leave them to die. Korean governments response makes us wonder if this government, a country joined in major international covenants such as the Refugee Agreement and the International Human Rights Agreement, is able to fulfill its role in the international arena. The Korean governments unjust decision would not have been made if participation of experts who can conduct through analysis of the current situation of Burma by taking refugees background into consideration and take a different approach from humanistic point of view was ensured in the decision making process of the Refugee Status Grant System of MOJ.

7. Considering the Korean governments insincere process of determining the eligibility of granting refugee status which gave the applicants humiliation, the decision clearly has a serious mistake and should be reconsidered and we, civil organizations will use all the available means to change the decision.

21st April 2005

10 USD members for Democratization of Burma
Amnesty International S. Korean Section
Association for Foreign Worker/s Human Rights In Pusan
Bucheon Migrant Workers House (BMWH)
Citizens Action Network (CAN)
Citizens Solidarity for Human Rights
Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS)
MINBYUN – Lawyers for a Democratic Society
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD)
Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights of Asia
Solidarity for Asia Human Rights and Culture
(12 NGOs in Korea)

Amy Jang (Jang, Sang-mi)
Manager of Planning Team,
Citizens’ Action Network (
Address: 100-4 Samsun-dong 5ga Seungbuk-ku Seoul, 136-045 South Korea
Tel: +82-2-921-4709 / Fax: +82-2-6280-7473

Please write a letter to relevant authorities listed below voicing your concern regarding this case.



To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ________,

RE: KOREA: Denial of refugee status for Burmese nine

I write to express my strong disapproval of the Korean government's decision to deny refugee status to nine Burmese people and their intention to deport them back to Burma on 18 July 2005.

According to the information I have received, the nine persons, all members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), have had their applications rejected, though have not been informed as to why. Should these nine be deported, as the government intends on doing, their political past would very much provide them with a credible fear of persecution.

The nine persons are activists who fought for the democratisation of Burma. In Korea, they participated in street campaigns and demonstrations in front of the Burmese embassy calling for democracy to their homeland and the overthrow of the military dictatorship. Because of their activities, it is highly likely that Burmese authorities would have information on them. Considering that currently thousands of innocent students and civilians have been sentenced to capital punishment or imprisoned for a long time for their efforts in democratising Burma, then return for these nine would very much raise a real fear of persecution.

I am concerned that the nine persons did not have their applications taken seriously or conducted in the true spirit of international refugee law. Given the current political situation in Burma and the political activities undertaken by these nine, I find it impossible to believe that a credible fear of persecution could not be found.

In light of this, I write to you calling for a reassessment of the applications put forward by the Burmese nine. I also strongly urge you to ensure that regardless of the outcome, the nine are not forcibly deported to Burma. If they refuse to go, and given the current political environment in Burma, their forcible repatriation would surely breach the principle of non-refoulement. 

As a signatory to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Korean government has a primary obligation and responsibility to ensure that non-refoulement does not occur.

Yours sincerely,



1. Mr. Roh Moo-hyun 
President of the Republic 
1 Sejong-no, Jongno-gu
Seoul 110-820
Tel: +822 770-0018
Fax: +822 770-0347 or 770-0001 or 770-2579
Email: or president@president/

2. Mr. Kim Seung-kew
Minister of Justice
88 Gwanmon-ro, Gwachon-si
Gyonggi Province 427-760
Fax: +822 2110-2079 or 503-7046

3. Mr. Cho Young-hwang
National Human Rights Commission of Korea
16 Euljiro 1-ga
Seoul 100-842
Tel: +822 2125-9700 
Fax: +822 2125-9812 or 2125-9666

4. Ms. Gabriela Rodríguez Pizarro
Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants
Att: Ms. Veronica Birga 
Room: 3-040
8-14 Avenue de la Paix
1211 Geneva 10
Tel: +41 22 917 9336 
Fax: +41 22 917 9006 

5. Mr. Oh Yong-gyo
Minister of Government Administration and Home Affairs
Central Government Complex 
55 Sejong-ro (77-6 Sejong-ro 1ga),Jongno-go
Seoul 110-760
Tel: +822 3703-4288 or 4321
Fax: +822 370-35501 or 370-35526

6. Ms. Wendy Chamberlin
Acting Commissioner
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
Case Postale 2500
CH-1211 Geneva
Salutation: Dear High Commissioner.

7. Mr. Francois Fouinat 
Director of the Asia-Pacific Bureau 
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees 
C.P. 2500, 
CH 1211 
Geneva 2, 
Tel: +41 22 739 8111 
Salutation: Dear Mr. Fouinat 

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Document Type : Forwarded Urgent Appeal
Document ID : FA-16-2005
Countries :
Issues : Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers,