SEOUL • A 30-day, visa-free programme to boost tourism and low-cost direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Jeju has led to an influx of Yemeni refugees to the resort island popular with South Korean honeymooners.
Of 561 Yemenis who arrived on Jeju Island this year, 519 had applied for refugee status as of last month. Forty-two applied for refugee status last year and seven in 2016. There were none in 2015, reported Korea JoongAng Daily.
Over 250,000 people have signed a petition to the presidential Blue House demanding a clampdown on the asylum seekers.
The Blue House is required to provide a formal response to any petitions that receive 200,000 signatures or more in a month, but the presidential office has yet to respond.
“There’s no real difference between our devastation after the Korean War and the articles written about the situation in Yemen in 2017,” wrote one petitioner in a June 16 message.
Across South Korea, the number of refugee applications touched 5,436 in the first four months of this year, compared with 9,942 applicants last year. Eleven Yemenis were among the 121 people granted refugee status in 2017.