Coalition of major Korean law firms for refugee assistance
The project in brief
September 2017 - September 2019
The project will be renewed, with most of the law firms participating.
To financially support refugee right organization (NANCEN Refugee Human Rights Center), and to provide professional legal assistance to asylum seekers in Korea, which has one of the lowest rate of refugee recognition.
The participating law firms are all members of Law Firm Public Interest Network, a network of all major Korean law firms, established in 2016 to coordinate their pro bono activities. This platform was used to engage and persuade law firms to enter into a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with NANCEN. The participating law firms, excluding Bae, Kim, and Lee, LLC, had no prior experience with actively supporting refugee rights organizations. The initial success of the project has attracted more law firms to participate, or be more involved in the partnership; the platform of Law Firm Public Interest Network facilitated the process.
NGOs: Korea Refugee Human Rights Center NANCEN
Law firms and their pro bono partners:
- Bae, Kim, and Lee, LLC
- Dongcheon Foundation
- Barun Law, LLC
- The Jung
- DongIn Law Group
- Jipyong, LLC
- Kim and Chang
- Lee and Ko, LLC
- One Law Partners, LLC
- Sun Pro Bono Center
- Yoon and Yang, LLC
- Yoon and Yang Pro Bono Foundation
- Yulchon LLC
UNHCR Korea assisted with initial training of law firm lawyers on refugee legal assistance.
Challenges and how they were overcome
Refugee rights organizations in Korea are very few in numbers and financially struggling. They have more cases than they can handle, and simply lack the resources to sufficiently coordinate legal cases to law firms. The low rate of refugee recognition in Korea means that the refugee applicants need professional legal assistance in order to successfully advance their claims. Existence of pro bono lawyers willing to help refugees was not enough; we needed additional activists who can coordinate legal assistance.
How they were overcome:
With the partnership, the refugee rights organization was able to receive financial assistance that it desperately needed, and with the additional resources it could refer meaningful cases to the law firms, who were looking for new venues in which to commit their pro bono resources.
Results of the Good Practice
- More than 1600 cases (counted by number of actions) handled by the law firms and activists hired by the project.
- Milestone successes through the project, including the first adolescent asylum seeker to be recognized as a refugee amidst active public campaigns by his classmates, and an asylum seeker family granted entry after living in the airport for more than 6 months.
How the project meets the GCR Objectives
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
The project, through professional and targeted legal assistance provided to asylum seekers by the major law firms, helped the refugees and the Republic of Korea during the State’s refugee status determination (RSD) process and further legal redress mechanisms.
This as a whole enhanced the State’s protection capacity for refugees and asylum seekers, and is an example of active responsibility sharing by the professional private sector, which previously has not been involved with refugee assistance.
The project culminated in positive difference in numerous lives of refugees, who, without legal assistance, would not have successfully presented his/her case through the refugee status determination process.
Most of the participating law firms will extend the MOU with NANCEN within 2019.
Takgon Lee, Attorney-at-law, Dongcheon Foundation