The Conference On Statelessness And Birth Registration
The Conference on Statelessness and Birth Registration was held at the National Assembly hall in Seoul capital city on 8 November 2013. Co-organizers of the conference were Save the Children, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representation in the Republic of Korea and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea. Approximately 300 people attended the meeting.
At the Special Speech by Byeong-seung Park, the Vice Speaker of the National Assembly, in 2001, South Korea Commission was asked for the birth registration of stateless children. It should include the right to education to all children. He expressed sadly those unregistered children cannot go for picnic with other students. There are about 1.4 million foreigners living in South Korea in 2014.
The main speaker at the conference, Mark Manly, Head of the stateless Unit of UNHCR, presented an overview of the importance and legal basis for prevention and reduction of statelessness. He described the definition of a stateless person in international law: someone who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its law.
There are at least 10 million stateless people worldwide, and the largest known populations are found in Myanmar (800,000), Cote d’lvoire (700,000), Thailand, Syria, Latvia and so on. Mainly, people are stateless because of tensions between states, because of conflicts, etc., Mark said. UNHCR’s Executive Committee recently adopted a conclusion on Civil Registration (with the participation of the Republic of Korea). This urges states to ensure civil registration and emphasizes that every child shall be registered immediately after birth without discrimination of any kind.
Another speaker, Prof. Chulhyo Kim, from the University of Sydney, pointed out one of the crucial problems for a stateless person is “no determination procedure in Korea”. A family living in Korea can register birth registration, for that, South Korea government does have support such as to illegal migrants but never provides recognition. Prof. Chulhyo Kim suggests procedures such as issuing certificates, to give a chance of naturalization, and to introduce a new registration system in South Korea.
Government officer Junho Jang, Public Prosecutor, Office of Legal Counsel, Ministry of Justice said it is difficult for South Korea to overcome their current bureaucratic procedures, such as a shift to a registration system instead of a declaration system. As he mentioned, the department of the ministry of justice is complicated, so, the actual implementation can be done by the Supreme Court, and also needs to be supported by the ministry of security and public relations. It is known that the Ministry of Justice is improving the electronic system for registration.
Advocator Youngah Park, Attorney at Law, Gong-Gam spoke out against the inept system in South Korea, describing it as a family nationality based birth registration.
She mentioned a need for a separate registration system for migrants.
Jong-Chul Kim, Executive Director and Attorney of Law, APIL also mentioned Korean law does not allow for birth registration for those not of Korean nationality.
Mark Manly presented a second piece of research on those who are stateless in South Korea: findings and recommendations. He found in South Korea, there was a deprivation of nationality of those in “sham marriages.” Upon discovery of false marriages, those who are involved are deprived of their South Korea nationality and left stateless, unable to reacquire Chinese nationality for the Chinese migrant victims.
Another case was unregistered children of refugees and unauthorized migrants and children born outside of marriage. At their respective embassy offices, some diplomat missions refuse to register children of unauthorized migrants, or impose upon them high registration costs. Moreover, Mark said it was difficult to rely on South Korea’s official statistics because there is no legal definition of a stateless person in South Korean’s law. According to an interview with the Ministry of Justice in September, 2012, there are 183 stateless persons in South Korea: 97 who were stateless at the time of entry in South Korea; 51 stateless due to sham marriages; 19 stateless due to failing to renounce a foreign nationality; 11 who were residents escaping from North Korea but classified as Chinese; 5 in ‘others’ category.
Mark provides recommendations to South Korea, such as to include a definition of ‘stateless person’ which is in line with Article 1(1) of the 1954 Convention; establish a statelessness determination procedure to identify stateless persons and to ensure compliance with South Korea’s obligations under the 1954 convention; and to implement a universal birth registration system to avoid barriers to birth registration for children of foreigners born in South Korea.
Dirk Hebecker, Representative of UNHCR
Byeong Seug Park,
Vice President of Natioanl Assembly
of South Korea