[Statement] We Welcome the Decision of the Ministry of Justice to Push for the Adoption of a Birth Registration System for non-Korean Children

1. We warmly welcome the announcement of the Ministry of Justice on February 15th that its policy committee decided to rapidly adopt a birth registration system for non-Korean children to protect their child rights. Every child should enjoy their rights as a child and their rights should be protected irrespective of their nationality or other status. However, non-Korean children in Korea are only named as “foreigner” and their right as “child” has been always ignored. For every child to enjoy child rights, registering the child immediately after birth is of paramount importance. It is because only when the child’s existence in the jurisdiction(here in Korea) is proved, the right to be recognized as an equal human being in front of the law can be fulfilled. Until today, however, the Korean law applies the birth registration only to Korean nationals, ruling out foreign children.

2.     The current birth registration system in Korea is against the international human rights law. Article 7 (1) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 24 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both state that the child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality. For the recent 10 years, many United Nations treaty-based bodies such as the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the Human Rights Committee (ICCPR), the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) have repeatedly recommended the Korean government to ensure the right to be registered to every child within its jurisdiction.  

3.     Until now, the government of Korea has maintained its ground, saying that a non-Korean child can be registered after birth in the embassy of their country of origin. However, we have witnessed many non-Korean children who could not visit and register their birth in their home country’s embassy. Refugees who have escaped from the persecution of their own governments cannot visit their home country’s embassy. There are other many cases where a child birth could not be registered in the embassy of their country of origin, including a child whose parents stay undocumented, and a child born out of wedlock and whose biological mother got naturalized in Korea before the birth of her child was registered in the country of origin. If the Korean government turns away from these children, they have no chance to make their presence known. These children are obviously born and raised in Korea, but they are not officially documented. As a result, they are exposed to protection risks including abuse, trafficking and other forms of exploitation. Also they are left in blind spot in human rights as they have limited access to public services like health care, education, and social security.

4.     We call for the Ministry of Justice to carefully design a birth registration system for non-Koreans so as not to cause stigma attached to or discrimination against non-Korean children. For the sake of effectiveness, it also should ensure that undocumented children and parents can register a birth without fear. Additionally, as it was mentioned in the deliberation of the policy committee, the birth registration for non-Korean children should be managed within the framework of universal birth registration system that includes birth notification service. Once again, we welcome the result of the MOJ policy committee’s deliberation that decided to push for a birth registration system for non-Korean children to protect human rights, and we do hope that the Ministry of Justice will actively take a step toward the adoption of a birth registration system to protect rights of every child including non-Korean children in accordance with the deliberation result.

17 February 2021


*a child born out of wedlock: A child born of parents who are not in a marriage relationship from a legal point of view.

*universal birth registration system: a system that guarantees all children to be registered to the country where they are born in, regardless of neither the parent/child’s legal status nor nationality.

*birth notification service: A system that requires the hospital to notify of every baby born in the hospital to the national institution

Categories: Statement