The Challenges in Balancing National Interests and Global Responsibilities in South Korea's Refugee Policy

Hans Schattle, Yeojin Seo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study offers a critical analysis of refugee policy in the Republic of Korea (South Korea) since the national government in 2013 enacted a law intended to improve its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers and align itself more closely with the principles of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The article begins by focusing on a major controversy that arose in 2018, following the arrival of more than 500 asylum seekers from Yemen, an episode that revealed how considerable public antipathy toward refugees presents a social and cultural problem for South Korea as it charts a course for improvement of its treatment of refugees. The analysis then turns to numerous problems at the nexus of law and society that continue to plague the refugee status determination process and, in many instances, to deny basic rights to a rapidly growing number of asylum seekers in South Korea. The article concludes by showing how, despite these problems, South Korea is better positioned than many of the world's more affluent constitutional democracies to harmonize its national interests with its responsibilities to make a meaningful contribution to ongoing global efforts to protect and accommodate refugees.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-607
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Refugee Law
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec 1

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s) (2022). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For Permissions please email:

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Law


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