What the new life of a Syrian on Jeju Island looks like

Ahmed Lababidi waits for the bus on Jeju Island. Lababidi left his war torn hometown, Aleppo,  fleeing across the Turkish border in 2012. He followed his younger brother to South Korea and settled on Jeju.

Ahmed Lababidi fled his home in the war-ravaged city of Aleppo, Syria, in 2012. The 22 year old then traveled to South Korea with his brother, where they were able to secure visas with the help of a Syrian businessman in Seoul.

Soon after, Lababidi applied for refugee status, but he says Korean immigration officials denied his request.

“I can stay here, but not as a refugee,” he recalls being told.

Lababidi settled on Jeju Island — a honeymoon destination for South Koreans — home. Though, for how much longer is anyone’s guess.

RELATED: A Syrian man takes refuge in a Korean honeymoon resort island

Multimedia journalist Malte E. Kollenberg recently spent some time with Labadidi to find out what his life was like on Jeju Island.

Ahmed Lababidi followed his younger brother to South Korea and now calls Jeju Island home.
Ahmed Lababidi followed his younger brother to South Korea and now calls Jeju Island home.Malte E. Kollenberg
Ahmed Lababidi checks his phone waiting for the bus.
Ahmed Lababidi checks his phone waiting for the bus.Malte E. Kollenberg
Most of the time Ahmed Lababidi is working. He wants to make money. When he's off he spends his time with friends in one of the countless coffee shops around.
Most of the time Ahmed Lababidi is working. He wants to make money. When he's off he spends his time with friends in one of the countless coffee shops around.Malte E. Kollenberg
Ahmed Lababidi's smartphone has become an integral part of his life in Korea. And he uses it to stay in touch with his family in Turkey.
Ahmed Lababidi's smartphone has become an integral part of his life in Korea. And he uses it to stay in touch with his family in Turkey.Malte E. Kollenberg
Ahmed Lababidi talks to his father — who fled to Turkey — via video chat.
Ahmed Lababidi talks to his father — who fled to Turkey — via video chat.Malte E. Kollenberg
Ahmed Lababidi on the bus around the island. He takes the bus to work, but on Sundays, he has to take a taxi sometimes. With quite good Korean language proficiency he programs the navigation for the taxi driver.
Ahmed Lababidi on the bus around the island. He takes the bus to work, but on Sundays, he has to take a taxi sometimes. With quite good Korean language proficiency he programs the navigation for the taxi driver.Malte E. Kollenberg
Ahmed Lababidi after work, finishing up the shift at the Indian restaurant around 11 pm. He had problems with the immigration before and does not want to be photographed at work.
Ahmed Lababidi after work, finishing up the shift at the Indian restaurant around 11 pm. He had problems with the immigration before and does not want to be photographed at work.Malte E. Kollenberg
Ahmed Lababidi was given a temporary humanitarian visa, which allows him to stay in Korea, but immigration officials won’t tell him for how long. Unlike refugee status, a temporary humanitarian visa doesn’t entitle him to government support, such as medic
Ahmed Lababidi was given a temporary humanitarian visa, which allows him to stay in Korea, but immigration officials won’t tell him for how long. Unlike refugee status, a temporary humanitarian visa doesn’t entitle him to government support, such as medical insurance. And that’s something he could really use.Malte E. Kollenberg
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