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The NHRCK made Recommendations towards Expanding the Scope of Exemption Eligibility for Disabled and Other Non-Koreans in Deficit Dispositions and Naturalization
Date : 2024.05.28 14:00:01 Hits : 152

The NHRCK made Recommendations towards Expanding the Scope of Exemption Eligibility for Disabled and Other Non-Koreans in Deficit Dispositions and Naturalization


 Humanitarian considerations needed to protect the rights of non-Koreans struggling with poverty due to disability, etc.

 NHRCK recommending changes in rules to the Minister of Justice and the President of NHIC


On April 29, 2024, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) recommended the President of the National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) to amend the corporation’s Guide on Processing Deficit Dispositions in ways that would protect the rights of non-Korean residents in Korea with disabilities and financial difficulties to health and medical care. The NHRCK likewise made a recommendation to the Minister of Justice to expand the scope of persons eligible under Article 18 of the Guide on Processing Nationality Requests so as to provide exemptions for non-Korean applicants of simplified naturalization from the requirement to prove their ability to earn a living if the applicants are eligible for humanitarian considerations on the grounds of disability and other such factors.


The petitioners in this case are activists of advocacy groups for persons with disabilities and immigrants. The person in need is a Taiwanese national who was born in Korea and has never left the country for the entire nearly five decades of his life. The person in need, in other words, has all his vital interests centered in Korea only. There are two main issues raised in the claimants’ complaint on behalf of the person in need. First, NHIC has refused to treat as a deficit the arrears of National Health Insurance (NHI) premiums that the victim owes simply because he is a Taiwanese national, despite his inability to earn a stable living on his own due to his intellectual disability. Second, the Ministry of Justice has refused the victim’s application for simplified naturalization, despite its own recent decision to provide greater exemptions for disabled immigrant women to apply for the same.


The NHRCK dismissed the petition, pursuant to Article 39(1)2 of the National Human Rights Commission Act of Korea, recognizing that the decisions of both NHIC and the Ministry of Justice were legitimate in light of current laws and governmental instructions.


Nevertheless, the Commission made the following policy recommendations in light of the fact that there is a significant, growing, and increasingly more diverse non-Korean population in Korea, including the technical foreign nationals who were born and raised exclusively in Korea and who are denied benefits under Korean law reserved for Koreans with disabilities.


(1) Protecting the rights of foreign nationals with disabilities and financial difficulties to health and medical care.


In Korea, NHI premiums are collected from persons according to their means to pay. NHIC applies a different set of criteria to the determination of NHI premiums to be collected from non-Koreans, due to the difficulty of ascertaining their income and wealth with exactitude and the ease with which they can depart from Korea to return to other countries of residence or their countries of origin. In 2022, NHIC collected KRW 1.7286 trillion in NHI premiums from non-Koreans, which has helped the corporation maintain its fiscal balance and see a surplus in excess of KRW 500 billion since 2020.


Processing NHI premium arrears as a deficit refers to the act by which NHIC decides to stop attempts to collect arrears from eligible persons when there are no realistic chances of collecting them. NHIC’s Guide on Processing Deficit Dispositions lists 17 possible grounds for rendering a deficit disposition, such as disability and poverty.


For non-Koreans, however, there are only three possible grounds for deficit dispositions, i.e., the expiration of arrears, the debtor’s death, and long-term departure from Korea. Non-Koreans, like the person in need in this case, who have lived in Korea for the entirety or majority of their lives and are disabled and therefore completely unable to pay their NHI premiums are denied the benefit of a deficit disposition.


As there are more and more non-Koreans living and working in Korea for extensive periods of time and who pay higher NHI premiums than Koreans and therefore do more than their share to maintain the fiscal balance of the NHIC in surplus year after year, it is advised that the NHIC adopt new rules to expand the scope of eligible non-Koreans for deficit dispositions, particularly for those with disabilities and living in poverty.


(2) Increasing exemptions for the naturalization of non-Koreans on humanitarian grounds


One of the requirements for applicants to become naturalized in Korea is to prove that they are capable of supporting themselves financially. There is no reason to hold this particular requirement as absolute and unchanging, when other requirements are open to change. Non-Koreans who suffer from disabilities and who therefore have difficulty earning an income or acquiring wealth are naturally disadvantaged by such requirements. The Ministry of Justice does not consider the vulnerable circumstances of disabled naturalization applicants from a reasonable humanitarian viewpoint when it insists that these applicants must meet all the same requirements as able-bodied applicants. The Ministry of Justice should therefore expand the scope of eligibility for exemption from the requirement to provide documentation on proving one’s ability to be financially self-sufficient under Article 18 of its Guide on Processing Nationality Requests.


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