Korean diaspora

From New World Encyclopedia
Korean diaspora
Hangul 교포/동포
Hanja 僑胞/同胞
Revised Romanization gyopo/dongpo
McCune-Reischauer kyopo/dongpo

The terms gyopo or dongpo in Korean refer to persons of Korean ethnic descent who have lived the majority of their lives outside Korea or, simply, any Korean who lives outside Korea.[1]

As with most, if not all, ancient empires, Korea's history has been one of constantly fluctuating borders. For approximately 3200 years, from 2333 B.C.E. to 926 C.E., the northern regions of Korea (today's Manchuria and Mongolia) had been inhabited by Koreans. With the fall of Balhae in 926 C.E., many Koreans absorbed into the northern nomadic tribes, China and Russia. That diaspora has been difficult to document. During the Joseon dynasty, many poor Korean farmers migrated to China and Russia in the late nineteenth century. During the Japanese colonization of Korea, Japan forced many Koreas to migrate while in the post-Korean War era many Koreans migrated to the United States. All total, approximately 6.5 million Korean live in diaspora. Although economic and political conditions have been improving in South Korea during the past 20 years, the vast majority of Koreans in diaspora have chosen to remain in their adopted nations.



Large-scale emigration from Korea began as early as the mid-1860s, mainly into the Russian Far East and Northeast China; those emigrants became the ancestors of the two million Koreans in China and several hundred thousand ethnic Koreans in Central Asia.[2][3]

Korea under Japanese rule

Monument for Korean Victims of A-Bomb, Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima, Japan

During the Japanese colonial period of 1910-1945, Japanese often recruited or forced Koreans into labor service to work in mainland Japan, Karafuto Prefecture, and Manchukuo, especially in the 1930s and early 1940s. The ones who chose to remain in Japan at the end of the war became known as Zainichi Koreans, while the approximately forty thousand forced to stay in Karafuto after the Soviet invasion typically go by the name Sakhalin Koreans.[4][5] According to the statistics at Immigration Bureau of Japan, 901,284 Koreans resident in Japan as of 2005, 515,570 permanent residents, and 284,840 naturalized citizens.[6][7] Koreans account for 40.4 percent of the non-Japanese population of the country. Japanese-born Koreans make up three-quarters of that number, the majority having legal alien status.

Aside from migration within the Empire of Japan or its puppet state of Manchukuo, some Koreans escaped Japanese-ruled territory entirely, traveling to Shanghai, a major center of the Korean independence movement, or to the already-established Korean communities of the Russian Far East although the Soviet Union deported the latter to Central Asia in 1938.

After Korean independence

After the establishment of the People's Republic of China, Ethnic Koreans in China (Chaoxianzu) became one of the officially recognized as one of the 56 ethnic groups of the country. Chinese consider them one of the "major minorities" in China. Their population grew to about two million ethnic Koreans; they reside mostly in northeastern China, where their ancestors had initially settled. Their largest population concentrated in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province, numbering 854,000 in 1997.[3][8]

Korean emigration to America began as early as 1903, although the Korean American community significant increase took place after the passage of the Immigration Reform Act of 1965; now, approximately 1.4 million Koreans live in the United States.—>[9] More than two million ethnic Koreans live in the U.S., mostly in metropolitan areas. A handful descended from laborers who migrated to Hawaii in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A significant number descended from orphans of the Korean War, the United States standing as a major ally of South Korea. Americans adopted thousands adopted in the years following the war when major media covered their plight. The vast majority, immigrated or descended from those who immigrated after the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965 permitted unrestricted immigration for family members of naturalized Americans.

Korean father and daughter in China

Europe and Latin America constituted minor destinations for post-war Korean emigration. Germany represents the largest Korean community in Europe while London has the largest European Koreatown. Documented Korean immigration to Latin America began in the 1950s; North Korean prisoners of war migrated to Chile in 1953 and Argentina in 1956 under the auspices of the International Red Cross. The majority of Korean settlement occurred in the late 1960s. When the South Korean economy expanded dramatically in the 1980s, investors from South Korea came to Latin America and established small businesses in the textiles industry.[10] Brazil has Latin America's largest Koreatown while Koreatowns also exist Argentina and Guatemala. Mexico City estimates the Korean population at around 30,000. In the 1970s, though, Japan and the United States remained the top two destinations for South Korean emigrants, with each receiving more than a quarter of all emigration. The Middle East became the third most popular destination with more than 800,000 Koreans going to Saudi Arabia between 1975 and 1985, another 26,000 Koreans immigrating to Iran. In contrast, only Germany (1.7 percent of all South Korean emigration in 1977) and Paraguay (1.0 percent) among European or Latin American destinations rated in the top ten for emigrants.[11]

Shifting focus of emigration

Emigration to America became less attractive as a result of the Rodney King riots, when many Korean American immigrants in Los Angeles witnessed their businesses destroyed by rioters. South Korean media reports on the riots increased public consciousness of the long working hours immigrants faced the United States.[12] With South Korea's developing economy, the focus of emigration from Korea began a shift from developed nations to developing nations. With the 1992 normalisation of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea, many citizens of South Korea started to settle in China, attracted by business opportunities generated by reforms, the opening of China to Korean immigrants, and the low cost of living. Large new communities of South Koreans have formed in Beijing, Shanghai, and Qingdao. As of 2006, the Korean population in those cities has been estimated between 300,000 and 400,000. A small community of Koreans, mostly expatriate businessmen and their families, live in Hong Kong. According to Hong Kong's 2001 census, Koreans numbered approximated 5200, making them the 12th-largest ethnic minority group in Hong Kong[13] Southeast Asia has also seen an influx of South Koreans. Koreans in Vietnam have grown from around 30,000 since the 1992 normalization of diplomatic relations, making them Vietnam's second-largest foreign community after the Taiwanese.[14] Korean migration to the Philippines has also increased due to the attraction of the tropical climate and the relatively low cost of living. 370,000 Koreans visited the country in 2004, while roughly 46,000 Korean expatriates reside permanently.[15]

Return migration

South Koreans with flags celebrating at the foot of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London

Koreans born or settled overseas have been migrating back to both North and South Korea since the restoration of Korean independence. Kim Jong-Il, born in Vyatskoye, Khabarovsk Krai, where his father Kim Il-sung, had served in the Red Army, numbers among the most famous.[16][17] The largest-scale repatriation activities took place in Japan, where Chongryon sponsored the return of Zainichi Korean residents to North Korea. Starting from late 1950s and early 1960s with a trickle of repatriates continuing until as late as 1984, nearly 90,000 Zainichi Koreans resettled in the reclusive communist state, although their ancestors lived in southern Korea. Word of the difficult economic and political conditions filtered back to Japan, decreasing the popularity of that option. Around one hundred repatriates escaped from North Korea, Kang Chol-Hwan the most famous, who published a book about his experience, The Aquariums of Pyongyang.[18][19] South Korea remains a popular destination for Koreans who had settled in Manchukuo during the colonial period. Returnees from Manchukuo such as Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan had a major influence on the process of nation-building in South Korea.[20]

An estimated 1000 Sakhalin Koreans have independently repatriated to North Korea in the decades following the end of World War II. The Soviets prohibited returning to their ancestral homes in the South since the Soviet's supported North Korea's war against the South, and Japan refused to grant Sakhalin Koreans transit privileges. In 1985, Japan funded the return of Sakhalin Koreans to South Korea although only an 1500 accepted the offer while the vast majority decided to remain on Sakhalin or move to the Russian Far East.[21]

With the steady improve of the standard of living in South Korea during the 1980s, the numbers of overseas Koreans repatriating to South Korea rose dramatically. 356,790 Chinese citizens have migrated to South Korea since the reform and opening up of China, almost two-thirds are estimated to be Chaoxianzu. Similarly, some Koryo-saram from Central Asia have also moved to South Korea as guest workers to take advantage of the high wages offered by the growing economy. Remittances from South Korea to Uzbekistan, for example, have been estimated to exceed USD100 million in 2005.[22] Return migration through arranged marriage represents another option, portrayed in the 2005 South Korean film Wedding Campaign, directed by Hwang Byung-kook.[23] Koryo-saram often face the most difficulty integrating into Korean society due to their poor command of the Korean language as well as their dialect, Koryo-mar, differing significantly from the Seoul dialect considered the standard in the South.[22]

Until recently, return migration from the West has been much less common than from Japan or the former Soviet Union. The economic enticement has been far less than in 1960s Japan or post-Soviet collapse Central Asia. An increasing number of aspiring Korean Americans singers and actors, frustrated by their inability to break through stereotypes in Hollywood, choose instead to go to South Korea through talent and modeling agencies. Prominent examples include singer Brian Joo (of R&B duo Fly to the Sky) and actor Daniel Henney (who initially spoke no Korean).[24][25]

Current numbers


Continent / Country Articles related Korean population Overseas Korean
Year % of local
% of Global Overseas
Korean population
Asia 3,591,369 NA 0.09 56
Flag of People's Republic of China China Koreans_in_China 2,043,578 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Hong Kong Hong Kong Koreans_in_Hong_Kong 5,200 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Indonesia Indonesia Koreans_in_Indonesia 23,205 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Iran Iran Koreans_in_Iran 540 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Japan Japan Zainichi Koreans 901,284 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Kazakhstan Kazakhstan Koryo-saram 105,000 NA NA% NA% [27]
Flag of Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan Koryo-saram 19,000 NA NA% NA% [27]
Flag of Malaysia Malaysia Koreans in Malaysia 5,000 2006 NA% NA%
Flag of Philippines Philippines Koreans in the Philippines 92,608 2007 NA% NA%
Flag of Russia Russia Sakhalin_Koreans 125,000 NA NA% NA% [27]
Flag of Singapore Singapore Koreans_in_Singapore 8,000 2006 NA% NA%
Flag of Republic of China Taiwan Koreans_in_Taiwan 3,454 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Tajikistan Tajikistan Koryo-saram 6,000 NA NA% NA% [27]
Flag of Thailand Thailand NA 19,500 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Turkmenistan Turkmenistan Koryo-saram 3,000 NA NA% NA% [27]
Flag of Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Koryo-saram 198,000 NA NA% NA% [27]
Flag of Vietnam Vietnam Korean_people_in_Vietnam 33,000 2006 NA% NA%
Americas 2,516,617 NA 0.28 39.2
Flag of Argentina Argentina Asian Argentine 35,000 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Brazil Brazil Asian_Brazilian 250,000 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Canada Canada Koreatown,_Toronto 110,000 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Dominican Republic Dominican Republic Asian_Latin_American 500 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Chile Chile NA NA NA NA% NA%
Flag of Guatemala Guatemala NA 49,000 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Mexico Mexico NA 14,571 NA NA% NA%
Flag of United States United States Korean American 2,057,546 2005 0.5% NA% [9]
Europe 99,972 NA 0 0.02
Flag of France France Koreans in France 13,162 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Germany Germany Koreans in Germany 34,000 NA NA% NA%
Flag of Ukraine Ukraine Koryo-saram 12,000 NA NA% NA% [27]
Flag of United Kingdom United Kingdom British Korean 40,810 NA NA% NA%
Oceania 74,545 NA 0.51 2.8
Flag of Australia Australia Korean_Australian 43,753 NA NA% NA%
Flag of New Zealand New Zealand NA 30,792 NA NA% NA% [6]
Middle East 10,303 NA 0 0.2
Flag of Kuwait Kuwait Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 5,000 NA NA% NA% [28]
Flag of Qatar Qatar Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 1,800 NA NA% NA% [29]
Flag of United Arab Emirates United Arab Emirates Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 1,600 NA 0 NA% [30]
Flag of Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 1,200 NA NA% NA% [31]
Flag of Jordan Jordan Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 290 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Oman Oman Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 105 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Iraq Iraq Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 100 NA NA% NA% [32]
Flag of Bahrain Bahrain Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 99 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Yemen Yemen Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 49 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Syria Syria Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 34 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Lebanon Lebanon Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 26 NA NA% NA% [26]
Africa Koreans_in_Africa 8,912 2005 0 0.1 [33]
Flag of Algeria Algeria Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 54 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Botswana Botswana Koreans_in_Africa 200 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Côte d'Ivoire Côte d'Ivoire Koreans_in_Africa 180 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Egypt Egypt Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 685 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Ethiopia Ethiopia Koreans_in_Africa 174 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Ghana Ghana Koreans_in_Africa 614 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Kenya Kenya Koreans_in_Africa 726 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Libya Libya Koreans_in_Africa 964 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Morocco Morocco Koreans_in_Africa 310 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Nigeria Nigeria Koreans_in_Africa 800 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Senegal Senegal Koreans_in_Africa 164 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of South Africa South Africa Koreans_in_Africa 3,452 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Sudan Sudan Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 86 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Tanzania Tanzania Koreans_in_Africa 238 2005 NA% NA% [33]
Flag of Tunisia Tunisia Koreans_in_the_Arab_world 69 NA NA% NA% [26]
Flag of Uganda Uganda Koreans_in_Africa 196 2005 0 NA% [33]
Total 6,408,673 NA 0.1 100

See also

  • Korean adoptee
  • Koreans


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  3. 3.0 3.1 Si-joong Kim. The Economic Status and Role of Ethnic Koreans in China. The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy. Ch. 6: 101-131. (Institute for International Economics). [1]. 2003 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "SJKim" defined multiple times with different content
  4. Byung-yool Ban, Koreans in Russia: Historical Perspective [2]. Korea Times 2004-09-22 accessdate 2006-11-20
  5. Yoshiki NOZAKI, Hiromitsu INOKUCHI, Tae-Young KIM, Legal Categories, Demographic Change and Japan’s Korean Residents in the Long Twentieth Century. Japan Focus
  6. 平成15年末現在における外国人登録者統計について (Japanese).
  7. Koreans in Japan 2005. Retrieved February 13, 2009.
  8. Zhang Tianlu [http://www.chinapop.gov.cn/rklt/rkyjhsyyj/t20040326_1504.htm%7Ctitle=中国少数民族人口问题研究 (Research on the topic of Chinese minority ethnic group populations) National Population and Family Planning Commission of China. 2004-03-26, accessdate 2007-01-16. See section "民族人口生活质量问题研究".
  9. 9.0 9.1 2005 American Community Survey, Korean alone or in combination in 2005. United States Census Bureau 2005 Retrieved February 13, 2009. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "USCensus" defined multiple times with different content
  10. Kate H. Choi, "Who is Hispanic? Hispanic ethnic identity among African Americans, Asian Americans, and whites." Department of Sociology, University of Texas [3]. 2004. accessdate 2007-01-12
  11. Korea Statistical Yearbooks for 1972, 1976, 1978. Quoted in Edna Bonacich and Ivan Light. Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965-1982. (University of California Press, 1991. ISBN 0520076567), 105-106
  12. Abelmann, John Lie. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. (Harvard University Press, 1997)
  13. "Population Census Thematic Report – Ethnic Minorities." Census and Statistics Department 2001. Hong Kong. 2001-12-17. accessdate 2006-12-21. [4].
  14. Tim Kelly, Ho Chi Minh Money Trail Vietnam lures foreign investment partly because it's not China. That appeals to South Korea. Forbes 2006-09-18. Retrieved February 13, 2009.
  15. Ronaldo Meinardus, "Korean Wave" in Philippines. The Korea Times, 2005-12-15. accessdate 2007-02-16
  16. Byoung-sun Chung, Sergeyevna Remembers Kim Jong Il The Chosun Ilbo2002-08-22 accessdate 2007-02-19
  17. Lawrence Sheets, A Visit to Kim Jong Il's Russian Birthplace. National Public Radio, 2004-02-12. accessdate 2007-02-19
  18. Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Japan's Hidden Role In The 'Return' Of Zainichi Koreans To North Korea. 2005-02-07 ZNet. accessdate 2007-02-14
  19. Morris-Suzuki, Nautilus Institute "The Forgotten Victims of the North Korean Crisis" [5]. 2007-03-13. accessdate 2007-03-15
  20. Suk-jung Han, Imitating the colonizers: The Legacy of the Disciplining State from Manchukuo to South Korea. ZNet. 2005-07-10. accessdate 2007-03-02
  21. Jeanyoung Lee, Kyunghee University, Ethnic Korean Migration in Northeast Asia. accessdate 2006-11-27 PDF.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Il-hyun Baek, 2005-09-14 Joongang Daily accessdate 2006-11-27 Scattered Koreans turn homeward
  23. Tae-jong Kim, The Korea Times 2005-08-21 Farmer Looks for Love in Upcoming 'Wedding Campaign' accessdate 2006-10-16
  24. Jason Song, Called to star in Asia. Los Angeles Times, 2007-01-01. accessdate 2007-02-14
  25. Robert Ito, 2007-02-11 The New York Times, Stuck in Asia, dreaming of Hollywood.. accessdate 2007-02-14
  26. 26.00 26.01 26.02 26.03 26.04 26.05 26.06 26.07 26.08 26.09 26.10 중동/아프리카 재외동포현황 (Middle East/Africa Overseas Compatriots Present Status). Overseas Korean Foundation (2005). Retrieved 2007-05-13.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 27.5 27.6 Ki, Kwangseo (2002-12-15). "구소련 한인사회의 역사적 변천과 현실 [Korean society in the former Soviet Union: historical development and realities]". Proceedings of 2002 Conference of the Association for the Study of Overseas Koreans (ASOK), Seoul: Association for the Study of Overseas Koreans.
  28. Cheongwadae (Kuwait) 2007. Excludes military servicemembers on active duty.
  29. Cheongwadae (Qatar) 2007
  30. Cheongwadae (UAE) 2006. Figure includes only Dubai.
  31. Cheongwadae (Saudi Arabia) 2007
  32. People's Daily 2004-04-09. Excludes military servicemembers on active duty.
  33. 33.00 33.01 33.02 33.03 33.04 33.05 33.06 33.07 33.08 33.09 33.10 33.11 33.12 Overseas Korean Foundation (2005)

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Abelmann, Nancy, and John Lie. 1995. Blue dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles riots. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674077041.
  • Baxter, James C. 2006. Japanese studies around the world 2005: the Korean diaspora and strategies for global networks. Kyōto: International Research Center for Japanese studies. OCLC: 150421845
  • Bergsten, C. Fred, and In-bŏm Chʻoe. 2003. Korean diaspora in the world economy. Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics. ISBN 9780881323580.
  • Chaliand, Gérard, and Jean-Pierre Rageau. 1995. The Penguin Atlas of diasporas. New York: Viking. ISBN 9780670854394.
  • Chang, Edward Taehan. 2001. The Korean diaspora in China: ethnicity, identity and change. New Haven: East Rock Institute. OCLC: 63132649
  • Kim, Hyung-chan. 1977. The Korean diaspora: historical and sociological studies of Korean immigration and assimilation in North America. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio. ISBN 9780874362503.
  • Kim, Julie. 2000. The Korean diaspora of the former Soviet Union: the cultural revitalization movement, 1980s-1990s. Thesis (Ph. D.)—University of California, Los Angeles, 2000. OCLC: 46926548
  • Miralao, Virginia A. 2004. Understanding the Korean diaspora to the Philippines. OCLC: 67228467


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