Ethiopia: Open Letter To Her Excellency Park Geun-hye, President, Republic of Korea

Re: Ethiopian Refugees and Asylum Seekers in South Korea

Dear Madame President,

(SMNE Press Release)— We in the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia (SMNE) are writing to you on behalf of Ethiopian refugees presently seeking asylum in South Korea. The SMNE is a social justice organization of diverse Ethiopians, committed to advancing the freedom, rights and well being of Ethiopians within Ethiopia as well as those living abroad.


As the SMNE’s Executive Director, I recently visited South Korea at the request of Ethiopians living in your country as well as several South Korean civil society organizations who were working with them. I met with these asylum seekers to hear more about the difficulties they faced in obtaining permanent status; including, finding a means of support for their basic needs while waiting for a decision on their cases. Following these meetings with Ethiopians, I met with South Korean officials, members of Korea civil society, UNHCR officials and journalists so as to raise up the concerns and difficulties affecting these Ethiopian refugees as well as to share more about the reasons these Ethiopians had left their homes in the first place.

I was impressed and encouraged by the reaction of your government officials and members of the local organizations to these asylum seekers, especially Refuge pNan, an NGO which protects and assists North Korean and international refugees seeking asylum in Korea and abroad. They appeared to genuinely want to help.

Unfortunately, I was unable to meet with you or your government officials in the Ministry of Justice and Korea Immigration Service (KIS) but do want to clarify some of the issues and questions you and others might have related to these asylum seekers. In particular, you might be interested in knowing more background surrounding the basis for the applications; particularly in light of your upcoming trip to Ethiopia and meeting with Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn; where you are sure to hear a profoundly different point of view.