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S. Korea reviewing special stay permits for country's Afghan community: justice minister

Justice Minister Park Beom-kye (Yonhap)
Justice Minister Park Beom-kye (Yonhap)
South Korea is reviewing granting special stay permits to Afghans residing in the country amid a humanitarian crisis erupting in Afghanistan following the Taliban's seizure of power, the justice minister said Tuesday.

"The government is reviewing granting special residence permits to Afghans residing in the country," Justice Minister Park Beom-kye told reporters on his way to his office in Gwacheon, just south of Seoul.

About 400 Afghans are currently staying in South Korea, according to government figures. 

Park said the government may apply to the Afghan community the same standard it used when giving special stay permits to the local Myanmarese community following the military coup in Myanmar earlier this year. "A decision can be made today at the earliest," he added.

The Myanmarese citizens were allowed to stay in the country until the political situation stabilizes at home, regardless of the expiration dates of their original stay permits here.

Park also said his ministry is making "multifaceted preparations" for the country's potential transport of Afghan evacuees.

A day earlier, National Security Adviser Suh Hoon said during a parliamentary session that the government is considering various options to provide refuge to Afghans who worked with South Koreans in Kabul, including the possibility of bringing them to Seoul.

"The government needs to review (the Afghan issues) in consideration of both the humanitarian perspective, as represented by the importance of human rights, and the refugee and immigration policies that the country needs to take," Park said.

"There can be various debates, but the time has come for the country to proactively review (humanitarian assistance to Afghans) from the perspective of national interest and human rights," he said, in apparent reference to some public resistance to the option of housing Afghan evacuees in the country. (Yonhap)