Friday, April 29, 2011

Ask a Korean! News: More Foreigners in Korea Than Ever

2010 is a milestone of sorts for foreigners in Korea. An interesting article about foreigner demographic in Korea, translated below.

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Recently, the squid boats leaving from Ulleungdo often feature the bronze-tanned Southeast Asian laborers. Foreign laborers have reached Ulleungdo, an island with only around 10,000 residents. Ulleungdo hosts 96 foreigners: 50 Indonesians, 19 Korean-Chinese, 16 Chinese, three Japanese and two Americans. Among them, 64 came to Korea to earn money by working on fishing boards. There are also ten marriage-immigrants and two English teachers.

As the number of registered foreigners exceeded 900,000 last year, it was confirmed on the 14th that every one of 228 si, gun and gu has a foreign resident. According to the "2010 Survey of Registered Foreigners" by the Ministry of Justice, Ulleung-gun has the least number of foreigners. Ongjin-gun near Incheon and Yeongyang-gun in Gyeongsangbuk-do also have around 100 foreigners. Gyeonggi-do Ansan-si had the most number of foreigners, at 38,971.

The map shows the number of employment visa holders.
The four columns on the right say: marriage immigration, study abroad, 
specialty employment and entrepreneur/investor.
(Click to enlarge)

[TK: A quick explanation about how Korean administrative districts are organized. At the top level, there are do (province), teukbyeolsi (special city) and gwangyeoksi (regional city). Provinces are made up of either si (city) or gun (county). Special city (which is Seoul) and regional cities are made up of gu (district). In other words, si/gun/gu are intermediate unit of administrative district, similar to counties of the U.S.]

(More after the jump)

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The number of registered foreigners as of the end of last year was 918,917, comprising 1.88 percent of the total population. Among them, the most numerous was those who came to Korea for employment, at 530,338. They are followed by: marriage immigrants (141,654); permanent residency (100,355); study abroad (87,486); specialty employment (38,715); entrepreneurs and investors (13,385). In other words, Korea is showing signs of a "developing nation-style" multicultural society in which the vast majority of foreigners are blue collar laborers, marriage immigrants and students with few high-qualification immigrants. More than half (65.1%) of foreigners live in Seoul metropolitan area, followed by the southeast (11.6%) [TK: includes Busan]; Chungcheong (8.9%) [TK: includes Daejeon]; Yeongnam (6.2%) [TK: includes Daegu]; Honam (6%) [TK: includes Jeonju and Gwangju]; and Gangwon/Jeju (2.1%).

As the number of foreign residents dramatically increased, their concentration depends on the purpose of entry. Employment visa holders are concentrated in Seoul metropolitan area (70.1%), and are also prevalent in the southeast (11.1%). Other areas have 4~7%. Dongducheon (648) and Pyeongtaek (524) of Gyeonggi-do had the most number of culture/artist visa holders.

Chungcheong region has the most number of foreign students (18.1%) after the Seoul Metro area (44.1%), as the region's colleges actively recruited students from China. 17.5% of foreign college professors live in Chungcheong, also second after the Seoul Metro area (50.4%). A representative of Gyeongsan-si said, "The twelve colleges around this area jumped into the recruitment of students from China, so we had a large increase of foreign students here."

Foreigners' entrepreneural/investment activity was active in the southeast. There were 4634 (34.6%) foreigners who lived in the southeast for entrepreneural/investment activities, trailing the Seoul Metro area (57.8%). Geoje-si, Gyeongsangnam-do had the most number of entrepreneur/investor visa holders, at 2239. An official from Geoje-si said, "The city has a lot of investors related to the shipbuilding business." Refugees and refugee status applicants, 1,398 in all, were concentrated in the Seoul Metro area. Bangladeshi refugees are mainly living in Gimpo-si, Gyeonggi-do, and refugees from Myanmar mostly live in Bucheon-si, Gyeonggi-do.

Bangga Bangga, a movie that opened last year, features a young Korean man who gets a job by fibbing that he was "the only Bhutanese in Korea." But there are actually five people from Bhutan in Korea. There are twelve people who are truly the only person from their countries. They are from Saint Kitts and Nevis, Kosovo, Eritrea, Niger, Burkina Faso, Maldives, Djibouti, Barbados, Solomon Islands, Lesotho, Swaziland and the Bahamas. Naim Hasoli, a 42-year-old researcher at Korea Institute of Energy Research, said, "Since I am the only one here, sometimes I forget the fact that I am a foreigner. If I met another Kosovar on the streets, I will probably be more surprised."

외국인 안 사는 시군구 한 군데도 없다 [Dong-A Ilbo]

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  1. This is one of the most fascinating trends of Korea. I always can't help comparing it to Japan and China , all three who despite their different cultures, have remarkably similar attitudes when it comes to race and "we"-ness. I especially love to contrast it with one other small country: Israel. Unlike Korea, Israel has always been proud of being the most pro-immigration cuontries in the world per capita. But as we all know, they are all Jews. Now that Israel is a rich country who also receives labor immigrants (who are not Jews), it seems to find its national identity in much, much greater siege as compared to Korea.

    Which is not to excuse Korea's racist and insular tendencies, of course ;p

  2. ... the most numerous was those who came to Korea for employment, at 53,338.

    i think the number for employment is wrong here (and a typo in the original article). it said
    "취업 목적이 53만338명으로 가장 많았다."
    which should probably have been 53만3380명 or 533,380, but certainly not 53,380 people, which contrary to he article wouldn't actually be the largest category.

  3. With the increase of foreiners, I'm a little concerned with the amount of xenophobic posts in internet forums with crazed statements about foreigners "ruining" the country and news links about multiculturalism failing in Europe and US (where did they get such articles?) - maybe it's just a few crazies right now, but the last thing I'd want to see is a Korean version of KKK in the streets. And I don't know what seems to be the best way to resolve all this, since there are people flat-out rejecting tolerance/understanding.

  4. Good catch, daniel. It should have been 530,338. (The article is right; translation was wrong.) Correction is made.

  5. You can count me in these statistics. I'm teaching English in Daegu.

  6. Back in 2008 the media were abuzz about crossing the million-foreigner mark, but that figure was exaggerated by including tourists and ethnic Koreans.

  7. Does the list differentiate between ethnic Koreans who have immigrated back to Korea from other countries (like the US) and non-ethnic Korean foreigners?


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