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[Newsmaker] Lawyer aiding fake refugee applications gets suspended jail term

Supreme Court (Yonhap)
Supreme Court (Yonhap)

South Korea’s top court confirmed on Monday a suspended jail term for a Korean lawyer, who was charged with helping Chinese citizens file fraudulent refugee applications.

The Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s decision that had sentenced the lawyer one year in prison, suspended for two years, on charges of violating the Immigration Control Act. The law firm where the lawyer belongs was slapped with a fine of 5 million won.

Upon a request from a refugee broker, the lawyer, only identified by the surname Kang, helped 184 Chinese people, who entered South Korea to find employment on C-3 visa, file refugee applications based on falsified information between October 2016 and December 2017, according to an investigation result.

Under Kang’s direction, the Chinese people stated in the application form that they were seeking asylum in fear of persecution from the Chinese government for religious reasons. Kang took 2 million to 3 million won ($1,819 to $2,729) per person as commission.

Kang was also accused of hiring a Chinese person staying in Korea illegally to provide interpretation for asylum seekers in February 2017.

Under the Refugee Act, asylum seekers who have filed for refugee status in Korea are given a G-1 visa, which allows them stay, work and earn money temporarily in the country while their applications are under review. The refugee application process could take up to a few years.

Handing down the jail term, the lowest court and the high court saw that the lawyer had taken advantage of the system that allowed refugee applicants to stay and work in the country legally.

By Ock Hyun-ju (