Posted August. 19, 2005 03:04,
Koreans usually picture Vietnamese boatpeople or rows of civil war escapees from Africa or the Balkans when thinking of refugees. Therefore, it is no surprise that few people are aware of the existence of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), or that there is a branch in Seoul.
According to the UNHCR, since Korea adopted the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1992, there have been over 600 refugee applicants. The Korean government has only declared 30 people as refugees so far.
UNHCR was created in 1951 under the mandate of the United Nations to protect refugees that have fled their own countries to a third state due to racial, religious, or political persecution. The Seoul office opened in 2001 and is one of the few regional offices of international organizations in Korea. It has so far been under the coordination of the Tokyo office, but will soon become an independent branch.
Mr. Michele Manca di Nissa (45), the new Acting Representative who has assumed his assignment early this month, explained on August 17, This shows Koreas elevated status in the international community and that the cooperation between the Korean government and the UNHCR has strengthened.
The Italian-born Nissa first started working at UNESCO in 1987, participated in UN peacekeeping operations (PKO) in Cambodia and Haiti, and has worked at UNHCR since 1994, helping refugees on the battlefields of Bosnia and Congo.
Representative di Nissa emphasized, People think that refugees are merely a burden, but Einstein was a refugee also. Refugees receive our help, but we must also remember that they can also be of help to us.