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Visa denial frustrates Ukrainian refugees in South Korea

Ethnic Koreans who fled war in Ukraine now face threat of deportation
Ethnic Koreans in Ukraine are seen in this file image. Ethnic Korean refugees who fled from war-torn Ukraine to South Korea face a threat of deportation after the government refused to extend their visas

Ethnic Koreans in Ukraine are seen in this file image. Ethnic Korean refugees who fled from war-torn Ukraine to South Korea face a threat of deportation after the government refused to extend their visas. (Photo: https://ukrainer.net)

Published: January 31, 2023 03:10 AM GMT
Updated: January 31, 2023 03:29 AM GMT

Ethnic Korean refugees who fled from war-torn Ukraine to South Korea face the threat of deportation after their request for a visa extension was denied by the government.

Moon Angelica, 30, and her son, 3, residing in "Koryoin Village" in Gwangju, the sixth-largest city in the East Asian country, are on the verge of repatriation after their refugee visa extension was denied by the government citing a lack of “precedent.”

Angelica and her family are among 10 other Koryoin families who face repatriation to Ukraine, the Yonhap news agency reported on Jan. 27.

"Koryoin" refers to descendants of Koreans who migrated to former Soviet states during the period of the Joseon dynasty and Japan’s imperial rule in Korea. An estimated 500,000 Koryoins are settled in former Soviet states including Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine.

"In the early days of the war, our government promised to support Ukrainian refugees"

Lee Chun-Yeong, a pastor at Gwangju Koryoin Village Church pointed out that government support was extended even after the situation in Ukraine stabilized.

“In the early days of the war, our government promised to support Ukrainian refugees, [and] descendants of Koryoin, until the local situation stabilizes and even after their visas expired. [This] should not be forgotten," Lee said.

Moon and her family along with thousands of other families fled to South Korea when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

The South Korean government issued them a travel permit and a short-term 90-day visa which was later upgraded to a refugee visa with a validity of six months.

To re-issue a refugee visa a valid travel document issued by the government is required during the visa extension application.

In the case of Moon and her family, the refugee visa will expire in April and the denial of their request for a fresh travel document will lead to repatriation back to their country of origin.

The situation of the Moon family is further complicated as the only identity document that they have in hand is their birth certificates.

In 2022, Koryoin Village sheltered around 7,000 ethnic Korean refugees who returned from various countries under different circumstances.

South Korea had strongly denounced the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"Catholics in South Korea have generously offered donations"

The central bank has severed ties with Russia's central bank in line with the international community’s ongoing pressure on Moscow to stop its aggression against Ukraine, in 2022.

The South Korean Catholic Church has also stepped in to support Ukrainian people who fled to other countries.

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Catholics in South Korea have generously offered donations to Caritas Korea, and a total of 711,295,864 won (US$5,79,812) was raised through a special fundraising campaign from March to October 2022.

Besides, various individuals and organizations joined hands to support Ukrainian refugees.

Among those are — Sharing Foundation (100 million won), Catholic Peace Broadcasting (US$100,000), Daegu archdiocese (100 million won), Chuncheon diocese (30 million won), the bishops' conference (30 million won), Korean Catholic Lay Apostolate and various Korean church organizations (15 million won).

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