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Number of refugees in Korea rises 12 percent

June 20, 2014 - 19:45 By Shin Hyon-hee
The number of refugees in Korea sharply climbed to 547 last year in line with Seoul’s efforts to support asylum seekers from around the world, a report showed Friday.

The figure marks a 12.3 percent yearly increase and a whopping 22-fold growth from 10 years ago, according to an annual Global Trend Report by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

Seoul began taking asylum claims in 1994. It enacted Asia’s first standalone refugee act in July 2013, which governs the application for refugee status and social security, assistance, education and other benefits.

But the acceptance rate remains low, with less than 10 percent of the more than 4,000 applicants granted the status in 2013. Nearly 2,400 applications are pending in the procedure, the survey showed.

The number of stateless persons also rose to 194 from 179 during the same period.

Worldwide, the collective figure for refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people reached 51.2 million, up about 13.3 percent from a year ago, the agency said.

It was the first time the number crossed the 50 million mark since World War II, reflecting crises in Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan and other flashpoints.

The report was based on data compiled by the U.N., governments and nongovernmental organizations.

“Peace is today dangerously in deficit. Humanitarians can help as a palliative, but political solutions are vitally needed. Without this, the alarming levels of conflict and the mass suffering that is reflected in these figures will continue,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

“Non-traditional donors need to step up alongside traditional donors. As many people are forcibly displaced today as the entire populations of medium-to-large countries such as Colombia or Spain, South Africa or South Korea.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (