Over the past three decades, refugee admission has become a hotly debated issue among the more developed countries (MDCs) in the Global North that participate in the international refugee regime. While these countries implement an incredible array of restrictive measures to control the inflow and settlement of refugees in their territories, paradoxically, most of them also continue to acknowledge their legal and ethical responsibilities to displaced peoples, and in practice accept a significant number of them. The extant literature on why the MDCs accept refugees, however, is incomplete, contested, and based primarily on popular destination countries in the West. In this paper, I approach the puzzle using the case of South Korea, one of the richest countries and an active participant in the international community, yet one that recognizes very few asylum-seekers. I first detail three existing theories on refugee acceptance – the globalist, realist, and liberal-democratic perspectives – and identify their weaknesses vis-à-vis the South Korean case. Then, using in-depth interviews I conducted with South Korean refugee advocates, attorneys, and former bureaucrats, as well as government documents, media accounts, and refugee court cases, I examine the country’s refugee status determination (RSD) procedure. A close analysis of South Korea’s RSD regime reveals that an important function of the MDC’s refugee admission is the bureaucratic and legal infrastructure and understanding that govern the RSD process.