Koreans in the United Kingdom
12,310 (2001 Census, South Korea)
22 (2001 Census, North Korea)
Other population estimates
46,829 (MFAT 2009 estimate, South Korea)
|Regions with significant populations|
|London and the South East|
|majority Protestant Christian, minority Buddhist|
The 2001 UK Census recorded 12,310 British residents born in South Korea. The 2011 report of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade showed 45,295 South Korean citizens or former citizens (regardless of birthplace) registered as living in the UK[fn 1] This means that Koreans in the United Kingdom are the 12th-largest group of overseas Koreans, behind Korean Brazilians and ahead of Koreans in Indonesia. According to the Overseas Korean Foundation, between 1999 and 2005, the UK's Korean population nearly quadrupled from 10,836, surpassing the older community of Koreans in Germany to become the largest in Europe. Among those recorded in MOFAT's statistics, 3,839 were British citizens, 9,170 had indefinite leave to remain, 19,000 were international students, and the other 14,820 had other kinds of visas. About two-thirds resided in the London area.
Most come from South Korea; however, the number of North Korean defectors is also rising. North Koreans form the ninth-largest national group of asylum seekers, with a total of 850 applicants, including 245 applications in the first seven months of 2008 alone, thirteen times the number in all of 2007. The UK grants asylum only to defectors who come directly from North Korea; in particular, 180 asylum seekers have had their applications rejected after police checks revealed that they had previously resided in South Korea (and thus had residency rights and citizenship there, in accordance with the South Korean constitution). Some of the alleged North Korean defectors may also be ethnic Koreans from China who purchased North Korean documents so that they could attempt to gain refugee status in developed countries. Efforts by the UK Border Agency to identify fake defectors have not always been successful and have also been known to misclassify actual defectors as fake ones.
Large numbers of Koreans began to settle in the UK in the 1980s, mostly near London; the highest concentration can be found in the town of New Malden, where estimates of the Korean population range from 8,000 to as high as 20,000 people. Factors which may have attracted them to New Malden include cheap housing, the previous presence of a Japanese community in the area, and the "bandwagon effect" of a few prominent Korean businesses in the area early on. In the 1990s, the area came to prominence as a hub for the Korean community; the high concentration of Koreans there meant that adult immigrants, especially women, tend not to speak much English, even after years of residence in the United Kingdom. During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Koreans from all over the country flocked to the town to gather with their co-ethnics and show support for the Korea Republic national football team.
21% of all Korean-owned businesses in the UK are located in the New Malden area. The first Korean restaurant in New Malden was established in 1991. Other Korean businesses in the area include hairdressers, stationery shops, travel agents, and Korean-language child care services; there used to be a bookstore selling imported Korean novels, but it closed down. Two rival Korean-language newspapers are also published there. Korean grocers do good business, as Korean food products, unlike those from India or Japan, tend to be unavailable from mainstream retailers such as Tesco. While Korean food has not historically been as popular as Chinese food, and Korean restaurants in London have been described as "mostly student hang-outs, offering simple food at bargain prices", it is gaining popularity, particularly in the gourmet street food market.
A 2006 study of Korean businesses in Kingston upon Thames noted that Korean business owners' unfamiliarity with commercial practices in the UK, along with language barriers, have sometimes led them into conflict with governmental regulators; the Health and Safety Executive noted that Korean barbecue restaurants are especially problematic in this regard, as they often imported small, uncertified table-top gas cookers directly from South Korea for self-installation, rather than hiring a registered gas engineer to install and inspect them, and took no corrective action when issued with warnings. The language barrier is compounded by the lack of translators; one Korean translator estimated that she had only four or five competitors in the entire country. Today, most South Koreans speak English and many high-quality restaurants can be found in London's West End.
As among Korean Americans, Protestant churches have played an important social and cultural role in the Korean immigrant community in the UK; they hold religious functions solely in Korean, a practice which contrasts sharply with that in Korean American churches, which often conduct youth group services and activities in English language; this has aided in preventing the attrition of Korean language abilities among locally born Korean youth. Denominations with Korean-language services in New Malden include the Church of England and the Methodist Church. A smaller number of Koreans in the UK observe Buddhism.
- Jenny Bae, violinist
- Jean-Baptiste Kim, former unofficial North Korean spokesman in France, now living in Surrey
- Park Ji-Sung, football player with Queens Park Rangers
- Lee Chung-Yong, football player with Bolton Wanderers
- Ki Sung-Yueng, football player with Swansea City
- Yongcheol Shin, econometrician and professor
- Ha-Joon Chang, economist, University of Cambridge
- Clara, South Korean actress of Korean and British descent born in Switzerland
- Shannon, South Korean singer of Korean and Welsh descent, who became famous on the Korean TV show Star King and set to debut with Core Contents Media
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- Korean Buddhist congregations in the UK
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- Korean Festival, the largest Korean cultural festival in Europe
- Korean Food in London
- British Korean Society (formerly the Anglo-Korean Society)
- British Korean Women's Society
- London Korean Links(Korean cultural events in London)
- Korean-Culture Centre in London
- Go Korea (Korean Tourist Organisation)
- Korea Business Centre London (KOTRA)