Five Russian citizens who fled the mobilization are stuck at the Seoul airport and live in the departure zone, as the Korean authorities denied them asylum. According to The Korea Times, the Korean Ministry of Justice believes that draft evasion is not a basis for granting refugee status. The Russians filed a lawsuit, trying to challenge the decision of the ministry.
Local human rights activists who represent the interests of the applicants believe that draft evasion in the context of war can be considered as a valid reason for granting asylum.
“These men are at risk of persecution in their home country because of their alleged political views, which makes them eligible for asylum in accordance with international standards. The ministry should know about this,” the lawyer of the Russians told The Korea Times.
If the court takes their side, they will be given visas to stay in Korea for a while while they go through the procedure for obtaining refugee status. Otherwise, they will be deported.
One of the Russians living at the airport, 23-year-old student from Buryatia Vladimir Maraktaev, told the newspaper that he left home on the night of September 24, immediately after he received the summons. Together with several acquaintances, he crossed the border into Mongolia by car, and from there by plane reached the Philippines, where he spent several weeks.
On November 12, Maraktaev flew to South Korea and has since remained at Incheon Airport, 50 km from Seoul. According to the young man, he served in the army and would not hide if it was necessary to protect his country from attack.
“But it's a completely different story when my country becomes an aggressor. I will never take up arms and will not go to kill innocent people in Ukraine,” Maraktayev said.
The young man said that he decided to seek asylum in South Korea, as he considers it a developed democracy that respects civil rights.
Another Russian, who did not want to give his last name, told reporters that he had been at the airport since October 14. A man from Krasnoyarsk, who introduced himself as Andrei, said that he protested against the regime in Russia and went to rallies long before the invasion of Ukraine, and on one occasion he was detained and beaten by the police. He decided to flee the country after he received a summons.
Jashar Khubiev, 31, from Nalchik, told The Korea Times that among the Russian servicemen who died in the shelling of Makiivka on the night of January 1, there were several of his acquaintances and he does not want to return to Russia, as he is afraid to share their fate.
The Korea Times notes that among the G20 countries, Korea ranks second to last in accepting refugees. According to the statistical platform Statista, in 2021 there were 2,300 asylum seekers in the country, only 71 people received refugee status.