By Randa Darwish
Few people are aware that there have been hundreds of Yemeni refugees seeking asylum in South Korea; a result of four-year war which has destoyed their country and resulted in one of the worlds greatest humanitarian disasters.
The arrival of more than 550 Yemeni refugees in Jeju island in the South Korean peninsula sparked an intense backlash as people were split between welcoming the refugees, and others refusing them due Islamophobic stereotypes which exist in Korean society.
While refugees believed fleeing their war-torn home country to a better place will help them revive their normal lives, they were shocked when they had to face the aggressive reactions of S. Koreans who called them “fake refugees” in addition to blaming them for any rape or kidnap incidents that took place in Jeju. They also found themselves prohibited from leaving the island.
While the South Korean island is one of few places that does not require Yemenis a visa, following the influx of large number of refugees. The S. Korean government removed Yemen from the short list of countries that do not require a visa to enter Jeju, along with Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo.
Lately, hundreds of South Koreans have been going on protests opposing their country’s policy towards accepting Yemeni refugees. Polls in South Korea showed that critics of the Yemeni refugees came mostly from conservative Christian groups, with 49% of S. Koreans against the idea of accepting them into society.
The issue has angered many social media users in S. Korea and around the world, with many reminding the Koreans of the fact that South Korea was established by migrants from its neighbour North Korea.
During the last few weeks, several reports were circulating among S. Koreans on women that went missing in Jeju island, with fingers pointed toward the Yemeni refugees who recently came to the area. People claimed that they were living in peace before these refugees came ruining everything.
It is worth to mention that the Yemeni Civil War is an ongoing conflict that began in 2015 between several factions, each of whom is claiming to constitute the Yemeni government, along with their supporters and allies, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. The four-year war has displaced millions of Yemenis inside and outside the country.
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