JEAIL > Volume 6(2); 2013 > Notes & Comments
Research Paper
Published online: November 30, 2013

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

Andrew Wolman
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies
270 Imun-Dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Globeedorm, #A806, Seoul, 130-791, Korea.
Corresponding Author:

ⓒ Copyright YIJUN Institute of International Law
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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

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