South Korea welcomes 34 Myanmar refugees to resettle in Seoul

A group of Myanmar refugee families, a total of 34 people, passes through immigration checkpoints at the Incheon airport, west of Seoul, South Korea, 02 November 2016, as South Korea brought them in from a refugee camp in Thailand and granted them permanent settlement status in accordance with a United Nations (UN) agency program. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees resettlement program transfers refugees living in temporary camps in an asylum country to another country that has agreed to admit them. Photo: Yonhap South Korea Out/EPA

A batch of 34 Myanmar refugees arrived in Seoul on Wednesday, as part of a refugee resettlement program initiated in South Korea for the first time ever in December 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration.

"This morning, 34 Myanmar refugees arrived in South Korea for resettlement co-managed by IOM Seoul. Welcome to Korea!" tweeted the IOM Seoul, alongside a photo of the families at Incheon airport in the South Korean capital.

Under the program, the refugees hailing from Myanmar camps in Thailand will stay temporarily at South Korean immigration centers in Incheon and Jeollanam-do, where they will receive language training and cultural orientation classes, authorities told epa.

South Korea enacted refugee laws in Asia in 2013 and was the second Asian country after Japan to become a refugee resettlement state, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, which alongside local NGOs and the IOM facilitates the process from camp to city.

The group lands on South Korean soil nearly one year after the first four Myanmar families arrived in Seoul in December 2015, marking what the UNHCR called "an important change in their lives as refugees after their terrible experiences back home and long years of exile in Thailand," according UNHCR South Korea representative Dirk Hebecker.

"Now a difficult road lies ahead for them to achieve full integration, which will depend largely on the hospitality of the receiving communities in South Korea," he added in a statement published by UNHCR.

The Justice Ministry of South Korea plans to run the pilot project until 2017, when it will assess the results and decide whether to continue the program or not, based on the success of integration and public reception.

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