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Court upholds refugee status of Ugandan lesbian

The Seoul High Court overturned a Supreme Court ruling in a remanded case by recognizing as a refugee a Ugandan lesbian woman who claims to face risks of persecution for her sexual orientation if she returns home.

The Seoul High Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, saying she has already been persecuted in Uganda with threats to her life and body after her sexual orientation became known.


“Should she return to Uganda, there are risks that she may be persecuted by homophobic people or the Ugandan government,” the judge said in his verdict.

The Ugandan woman entered Korea for language training purposes in February 2014 and applied for refugee status in May that year, claiming she could face persecution from the Ugandan government or people if she were to return home.

The Korea Immigration Service denied her refugee status, and the Justice Ministry did not accept her formal objection.

The woman then filed a lawsuit to get the Korean government to cancel the decision to deny her refugee status.

She said she was arrested by police in Uganda for being a lesbian, released on bail with the help of a friend and then fled to Korea.

She added that she faces risks of being arrested or murdered should she return to Uganda, where society is largely against homosexuals.

The lower court ruled against her, finding her claims difficult to believe.

The appellate court, however, ruled she is a refugee, noting legal protection by the Ugandan government against homophobic persecution cannot be expected.

The Supreme Court returned the case back to the Seoul High Court, saying there seemed to be insufficient grounds on the risks of persecution by the Ugandan government.

As the Seoul High Court overturned the Supreme Court ruling in its trial of the remanded case, Judge Yang Hyun-joo explained that some inconsistencies in the plaintiff’s statements could be attributed to interpreting errors or mental stress.

The judge also said there was no inconsistency in the key parts of her statement that she was arrested by Ugandan police and was persecuted.

By Kim So-hyun (