SEOUL, March 8 (Yonhap) -- A Seoul court deemed a decision by the immigration office to deny a refugee status application to be unlawful, court records showed Sunday, allowing the asylum seeker to apply for protection more than a year after he came to South Korea.
"Despite any suspicion (the Incheon Immigration Office) might have, asylum seekers should be given the opportunity to be evaluated for refugee status and be provided with permissible legal protection while going through the necessary procedure," the Seoul High Court ruling said.
In late 2013, a fugitive running from conscription in his war-ridden home country in Africa was denied the right to apply for sanctuary here on grounds that there were inconsistencies in his account.
The man, whose identity has been withheld, spent the next year taking legal action against the Incheon Immigration Office and went through several appeals trials in the process to seek a chance to enter the country and have his application for refugee status submitted for evaluation.
Immigration officials decided not to appeal the latest outcome, making the ruling final and the first case to reverse the immigration office's decision to deny an asylum seeker's application for refugee status.
"We hope the authorities will work to bring a groundbreaking change to the immigration system," said an attorney who represented the defendant.
"The country needs to improve its immigration system and have it updated in line with its Refugee Law," he added.
Earlier in 2013, the Justice Ministry revised the Refugee Law to provide financial aid to those applying for refugee status. Under the amended law, applicants awaiting their outcome are given living costs or are allowed to stay at a facility for up to six months after submitting their applications.
Last year, 2,896 foreigners sought asylum in South Korea, of which 94 were accepted, according to the Korea Immigration Service. The figure does not include those from North Korea.
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