SEOUL, March 27 (Korea Bizwire) — The Supreme Court has finalized a decision not to punish an Iranian national charged with obtaining a visa based on a fake document, citing an international refugee convention prohibiting the punishment of refugees for illegal entry.
The Iranian applied for refugee status in South Korea in March 2016 after entering the country on a short-term visa he got from the Korean Embassy in Iran using a falsified invitation letter from a South Korean company.
The Ministry of Justice had initially denied him refugee status.
He lodged an administrative lawsuit challenging the decision and eventually won refugee status from the top court in November 2020 on grounds that his conversion to Christianity could subject him to religious persecution in Iran.
Separately, he had been sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for two years on charges of using a fake document to get his visa.
But the 2018 sentence was overturned by an appellate court after the Supreme Court’s decision to give him refugee status.
And recently, the Supreme Court upheld the appellate court’s decision not to punish him.
The top court ruled South Korea’s ratification of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention, entitles the Iranian to exemption from criminal penalties.
Article 31 of the convention stipulates that no penalties should be imposed on refugees on account of their illegal entry or presence.
South Korea joined the convention in 1992, and the convention entered into force the next year.