x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Korean court grants activist refugee status

A South Korean court has granted refugee status to a woman who fled China after helping escapees from North Korea.

SEOUL // A South Korean court has granted refugee status to a woman who fled China after helping escapees from North Korea.

The Seoul Administrative Court reversed the justice ministry's decision to deny refugee status to the woman, an ethnic Korean identified only as Lee, a court spokesman said yesterday.

Lee, who lived near the border, said she had helped about 20 refugees flee North Korea until police raided her house in March last year. Her husband was arrested but Lee escaped with her daughter.

She arrived in South Korea with other refugees in a fishing boat.

The justice ministry refused to grant Lee refugee status, saying her claim lacked credibility.

South Korean courts rarely grant such status to ethnic Koreans with Chinese nationality.

But the administrative court ruled last week that she could face harsh punishment if returned to China. China repatriates those North Korean refugees it catches. It also punishes people who help the refugees.