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South Korea grants refugee status to Iranian student who became Catholic

An Iranian student who converted to Catholicism in South Korea has obtained refugee status through the efforts of Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung of Seoul and the man’s classmates.

The Ministry of Justice announced on 19th October that the Korea Immigration Service accepted the student’s application, ucanews.com reported. The man’s name was withheld to protect his identity and safety. He was referred to only as “Anthony.”

Cardinal Yeom met Anthony at his office in Seoul on 16th August and pledged to support his bid to claim refugee status.

Afterward, Cardinal Yeom sent letters to Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, Justice Minister Park Sang-ki, the chairman of National Human Rights Commission of Korea and other officials appealing for leniency in Anthony’s case because of his religious conversion.

Prior to the final judgment on 2nd October, the cardinal issued another message of support.

‘Anthony converted to Catholicism and received the Confirmation sacrament. As he now has a clear Catholic identity, if he were to return to his home country, he would face a high possibility of persecution,’ Cardinal Yeom wrote.

‘I appeal to related agencies to offer special interest and care to Anthony, allowing him to live a humane life in South Korea and escape the threat of persecution as a refugee.’

Born in Tehran in 2003, Anthony later travelled to Korea with his father. He converted to Catholicism while in primary school. His father also converted.

Muslims who convert to another religion are charged as criminals in Iran.

Anthony first appealed for refugee status in 2016, but his application was rejected. He applied again in July with the support of the cardinal, his classmates and teachers.

Supporters held a rally outside the immigration service in Seoul on the day the second application was submitted and followed that with a petition online to the country’s presidential office.

“Lots of friends and teachers helped me to obtain this refugee status. Cardinal Yeom in particular encouraged me and gave me huge support,” Anthony said in a statement.

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Picture: The South Korea flag.