Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Ethiopian becomes first refugee-citizen in South Korea

Ethiopian refugees, file image
Many thousands of Ethiopians have fled to escape political persecution

South Korea has awarded citizenship to an Ethiopian refugee - the first such move in the country's history, says the UN's refugee agency.

The UN's Melissa Fleming called it a "highly significant milestone" in East and South East Asia - where few nations have signed the UN refugee convention.

She urged other Asian countries to follow South Korea's lead.

The 38-year-old Ethiopian fled persecution in his home country in 2001 and was given citizenship last week.

Ms Fleming said South Korea had signed the refugee convention in 1994, and had so far accepted 175 claims of refugee status and given humanitarian assistance.

The country also houses thousands of refugees from North Korea, but the UN says North Koreans have a different status and are automatically considered to be South Korean citizens.

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