South Korea Welcomes Over 300 Afghan Evacuees as ‘Persons of Special Merit’

South Korea welcomed the arrival of over 300 Afghan evacuees on Aug. 26 and designated them as “persons of special merit” rather than refugees.

According to the foreign ministry, a total of 378 Afghans who worked for South Korea’s embassy and other facilities in Afghanistan and their family members arrived at the Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.

A further 13 Afghans will arrive on a separate flight on Aug. 27, bringing the total to 391, the foreign ministry said.

The foreign ministry further said that the government designated the Afghan evacuees as “persons of special merit,” not refugees, and will be granted short-term visas that can be switched to longer-term ones to allow them to find employment.

However, according to analysts, the designation was roughly equivalent to being recognized as refugees, with the difference only being in name.

Citing a defense ministry official, Yonhap News Agency reported that around 180 of the evacuees were under the age of 10, including 100 infants.

President Moon Jae-in stressed that it was “only natural for us to fulfill our moral responsibility by helping Afghans who helped our operations.”

Moon described being able to transport the Afghan employees “through delicate preparations” as “fortunate.”

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