For Bishop of Jeju, turning away refugees is an unacceptable crime for a Christian
The controversy exploded after the arrival of 500 Yemeni refugees. Rallies for and against migrants were held in Seoul. The government has kept asylum seekers on Jeju island.
Jeju (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Turning away from refugees is a " crime that denies the conscience that all people ought to have, and this is even more unacceptable for a Christian," said Mgr Peter Kang Woo-il, bishop of Jeju, after the recent arrival of more than 500 Yemeni refugees sparked controversy in the country.
In a pastoral letter to the faithful dated 30 June, the prelate reminded his compatriots about the Korean refugees who fled from the Japanese colonial occupation.
"Seven million Koreans who are scattered around the world depend upon the good will of the people of the countries where they live," the bishop said.
“How enraged we would be if our family members living in other countries were shut out and chased away by the people of those countries!”
On the island of Jeju, the issue of migrants exploded with the arrival of more than 500 asylum seekers from Yemen, who came under a no-visa programme aimed at promoting tourism.
Their arrival has raised concerns over security and possible abuse of the asylum system for economic benefits.
Since 30 April, the South Korean government has prevented the Yemenis from leaving the island and going to other parts of the country.
Then, on 1st June, it added Yemen on the list of 11 countries whose nationals need an official visas to enter the country.
The question is dividing South Korean society. A petition on the Presidential website on 13 June calling on the government to send the Yemenis back has drawn 350,000 signatures in just a week.
Last Saturday evening, two rallies were held central Seoul, for and against refugees.
A group of protesters, calling themselves People's Solidarity Against Illegal Asylum Seekers, staged a rally in Gwanghwamun Square, calling for the government to fend off "fake refugees” (picture 2).
Not far from there, another group of people held a rally in support of asylum seekers (picture 3). "Those who oppose (refugees) say they want safety and yet all they do is incite hatred," the group said.
At present, there are more than 35,000 asylum seekers in South Korea, a figure higher than the 31,500 North Korean defectors in the country, who are automatically recognised as South Korean citizens.