South Korea saw a significant rise in the number of Russian asylum seekers last year, with over 5,000 submitting refugee applications, a government report found Monday.
According to the latest monthly report by the Korea Immigration Service under the Ministry of Justice, the number of Russian nationals who sought refugee status in Korea last year stood at 5,750, a five-fold increase from the number of asylum applications by Russian nationals in 2022, which stood at 1,038. The number is also almost equivalent to the total number of Russian asylum seekers over 26 years between 1994 and 2019.
A total of 18,838 refugee applications were reported last year, a 63 percent increase from the previous year. Russians accounted for over 30 percent, followed by Kazakhstan nationals with 2,094, Chinese with 1,282, Malaysians with 1,205 and Indian nationals with 1,189.
The dramatic increase is believed to be due to growing concerns among Russians over the possible additional conscription of citizens for Moscow's war against Kyiv. President Vladimir Putin began a military mobilization in September 2022, putting many men at risk of getting drafted.
According to the government report, the most common reason for applying for asylum was due to "political opinions," including objecting to getting conscripted (4,580), followed by religion (2,665), membership in a particular social group (1,205), uniting the family (887) and due to race (719).
There are no exact figures on how many people have left Russia since the Ukraine war started, but the BBC has reported estimates could vary from hundreds of thousands to several million people. Forbes also cited sources within Russia's authorities as saying that between 600,000 and 1 million people crossed Russia's borders in 2022.
Despite the surge in the number of applications for asylum in Korea, out of 5,950 cases last year, only a mere 1.7 percent (101) were officially granted refugee status.
From January 2014 to May 2023, over 85,000 people sought asylum. Only 2.06 percent out of some 47,000 cases that went through the evaluation stage were accepted, which is significantly lower than the Organization for Economic Cooperation's average of 24.8 percent.