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A technical loophole allowed the Yemenis to enter South Korean territory visa-free, but their arrival was met with a strong anti-immigrant backlash. South Korea has some of the toughest refugee laws in the world.
The South Korean Ministry of Justice announced on Wednesday that it denied refugee status to hundreds of Yemenis who had arrived in the island of Jeju earlier this year; they could enter due to a loophole that allowed for visa-free travel.
Of the roughly 500 people from the conflict-plagued nation that arrived on the South Korean island, a total of 481 formally applied for asylum.
Not a refugee-friendly country
The Yemeni arrivals triggered an anti-immigrant backlash in South Korea this summer. The Asian nation is not known for its openness to foreigners, having only approved 4.1 percent of refugee applications since 1994.
Most foreigners that live in South Korea come from China and Southeast Asia. The only exception to the rule applies to North Korean defectors, who are automatically granted citizenship in the South.
According to an opinion poll taken after the arrival of the Yemeni asylum-seekers, about half of South Koreans opposed the arrivals, 39 percent were in favor and some 12 percent undecided.
A few hundred asylum-seekers from Yemen have sparked an unprecedented wave of xenophobia in ethnically homogenous South Korea, echoing the anti-immigrant sentiment that has swept Europe and helped propel Donald Trump to the White House -AFP