Koreans in Thailand

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Koreans in Thailand
Total population
17,500 (2011)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Bangkok · Phuket · Chonburi · Chiang Mai
Korean · Thai
Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Korean people

Koreans in Thailand consists of North Korean refugees as well as immigrants and expatriates from South Korea and Thai citizens of Korean ancestry. According to South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in 2011 there were about 17,500 Koreans living in the country.


North Korean refugees[edit]

Thailand's Chiang Rai province is a popular entry point for North Korean defectors into the country.[2] Most of these defectors have escaped economic hardship in North Korea and traveled to Thailand for temporary refuge in the hope of being able to resettle in third countries, usually South Korea. Thailand is the easiest route to access and the most accommodating, compared to Mongolia and Vietnam, where border security is tighter and in some cases, those fleeing have been sent back to North Korea to face harsh punishment.[3]

South Korean expatriates[edit]

A variety of factors have drawn South Korean expatriates to Thailand including the country's golf courses, as well as the cuisine, the weather, and business opportunities.[4] There were an estimated 17,500 South Korean nationals or former nationals in Thailand as of 2011. Among them, 53 had obtained Thai nationality, 114 were permanent residents, 500 were international students, and the remaining 16,800-odd South Korean residents had other kinds of visas. Their population fell by about 13% from 20,200 since 2009. 14,000 live in Bangkok, 1,500 in Phuket, and 1,000 each in Chonburi and Chiang Mai. Their community exhibits a significantly lopsided sex ratio, with 10,750 men as compared to just 6,760 women, a ratio of about 1.6:1.[1]

Bangkok has a Koreatown located in the Sukhumvit Plaza area near Sukhumvit Soi 12.[4] Phuket also has a Koreatown and numerous Korean restaurants.[5] There has been controversy over illegal immigrants from South Korea working as tour guides; the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Korean Association in Phuket, and the South Korean consulate in Phuket signed an agreement in 2007 to promote the hiring of Thai tour guides instead.[6] Korean culture is popular throughout the country thanks to the Korean Wave.[4]

Education and language[edit]

There are about 56 schools in Phuket that teach the Korean language. There is also a Korean school in Bangkok known as the Korean International School of Bangkok.

South Korean children born in Thailand to South Korean expatriates show little language shift towards Thai.[7]


There were two Korean Buddhist temples and thirteen Korean Christian churches in Bangkok as of 2008. The Korean Union Church at Ratchadaphisek Road is the most popular. The average Korean church in Bangkok has an attendance of about a hundred or two hundred worshippers.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

Thai martial arts film The Kick follows a Korean family of Taekwondo experts who move to Thailand.

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 《재외동포 본문(지역별 상세)》, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2011-07-15, p. 96, retrieved 2012-02-25 
  2. ^ "Illegal North Korean migrants on rise", Bangkok Post, 5 June 2011
  3. ^ "THAILAND: North Koreans escape from hunger", IRIN Asia, 5 June 2011
  4. ^ a b c d "Korean community blossoming in Bangkok", Thai Asia Today, 2008-09-14, archived from the original on 2010-09-02, retrieved 2012-03-30 
  5. ^ "Phuket’s Korea Town: A Clash of Cultures", Phuket Magazine, 27 July 2011
  6. ^ "Agreement reached over illegal Korean guides", Phuket News, 2007-09-05, archived from the original on 2012-02-28, retrieved 2012-03-30 
  7. ^ Jeon, Yun-Sil (2003), A comparison of Social and Linguistic Features in the Korean communities in Bangkok and Buenos Aires (PDF), Asia Research Center, Chulakorn University, retrieved 2012-03-30 

External links[edit]