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Panel recommends rights guarantee for stateless people

The government should protect the rights of stateless people even if their Korean nationality was canceled because of illegitimate marriages, the state human rights watchdog recommended Friday.

The advice is expected to pave the way for 33 people rendered stateless due to illegitimate marriages to be permitted to take jobs and settle down here.

As of April this year, 66 forfeited their Korean nationalities due to false marriages, and 33 of them stay in the country.

The National Human Rights Commission will submit the recommendation to the ministries of justice, foreign affairs and trade, and health and welfare.

The Justice Ministry will be asked to lay systematic and legal grounds for stateless people’s rights, while the Foreign Affairs Ministry will be requested to issue travel documents to them when they need to go abroad urgently. The welfare authorities will be asked to cover their medical fees partly with national insurance in case of serious illnesses.

According to the commission, Korea joined the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons in 1962 but is yet to implement its provisions. Under the convention, member states should guarantee stateless persons with the same rights as any aliens regarding employment, health and travel.

Currently, the government issues alien registration cards to them as stateless persons but does not allow them to work in the country. It is a measure to prevent false marriage aimed at acquiring the Korean nationality.

“Stateless people are unable to enter their native countries because they disapprove of them as their nationals,” the commission said. “Because they have no nationality, they cannot apply for jobs, nor for national health insurance.”

In 1998, the government made it more difficult for foreigners to acquire the Korean nationality by requiring them to reside in Korea for two years or longer after marrying Koreans. Thanks to the rule toughened against false marriage, just three cases of nationality cancellation have been reported, the commission said.

“This show that even if the government guarantees the stateless persons the rights to stay legitimately, it will not encourage false marriages,“ it said.

By Bae Ji-sook (