Chinese people in Korea

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Chinese people in Korea
Regions with significant populations
North Korea: Sinuiju, Pyongyang, Chongjin[1]
South Korea: Seoul, Incheon, Busan
 South Korea 780,000(2013)[2]
 North Korea 10,000(2009)[1]
Chinese, Korean
Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity[3]

There has been a recognisable community of Chinese people in Korea since the 1880s. Most early migrants came from Shandong province on the east coast of China; many of them and their descendants have emigrated. However, the reform and opening up of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the normalisation of People's Republic of China – South Korea relations has resulted in a new wave of Chinese migration to South Korea.[4] In 2009, more than half of the South Korea's 1.1 million foreign residents were PRC citizens; 71% of those are Chaoxianzu, PRC citizens of Korean ethnicity.[5] There is also a small community of PRC citizens in North Korea.[6]


Chinese people in Korea
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 韓國華僑, 旅韓華僑
Simplified Chinese 韩国华侨, 旅韩华侨
Korean name
Hangul 한국화교, 여한화교
Hanja 韓國華僑, 旅韓華僑

When writing in English, scholars use a number of different terms to refer to Chinese people in Korea, often derived from Sino-Korean vocabulary. One common one is yeohan hwagyo (Korean) or lühan huaqiao (Mandarin), meaning "Chinese staying in Korea".[7] The Korean reading is often shortened to hwagyo (also spelled huakyo), which simply means "overseas Chinese" but in English literature typically refers specifically to the overseas Chinese of Korea. Other authors call them huaqiao, but this term might be used to refer to overseas Chinese in any country, not just Korea, so sometimes a qualifier is added, for example "Korean-Huaqiao".[8][9] The terms "Chinese Korean" and "Korean Chinese" are also seen.[8][10] However, this usage may be confused with Koreans in China, who are also referred to by both such names.

Early history[edit]

Individual Chinese are recorded on the Korean peninsula as early as the 13th century, with some going on to found Korean clans.[11] However, there was little recognisable community until July 1882, when the Qing Dynasty sent Admiral Wu Changqing (吳長慶) and 3,000 troops at the request of the Korean government to aid in quelling a rebellion. Accompanying the troops were some 40 Chinese merchants and other civilians.[4][12] In August that same year, Qing Superindendent for Trade for the Northern Ports Li Hongzhang lifted restrictions on coastal trade and signed the Regulations for Maritime and Overland Trade Between Chinese and Korean Subjects, and two further agreements the following year, which granted Chinese merchants permission to trade in Korea.[13]

Unlike in other Asian countries, 90% of the early overseas Chinese in Korea came from Shandong, rather than the southern coastal provinces of Guangdong and Fujian.[14] During the late 19th and early 20th century Shandong was hard hit by famine, drought, and banditry especially in its northwest, and caused many to migrate to other parts of Shandong, China, and Korea.[15] Chinese merchants did well in competition with the Japanese due to their superior access to credit.[16] They were not confined to port cities, and many did business in inland parts of Korea. Generally speaking, Japanese traders were more interested in quick profits, while the Chinese established relationships with customers.[17] The earliest Chinese school in Korea, the Joseon Hwagyo Primary School, was established in 1902 in Incheon.[18]

Under Japanese rule[edit]

The gate of the Overseas Chinese Primary School in Myeongdong.Seoul

By 1910, when Korea formally came under Japanese rule, the number of Chinese in Korea had risen to 12,000.[19] Chinese migrants established schools in Seoul in 1910, Busan in 1912, Sinuiju in 1915, Nampho in 1919, and Wonsan in 1923.[20]

The number of Chinese in Korea would expand to 82,661 by 1942, but contracted sharply to 12,648 by 1945 due to economic hardships faced during World War II.[21]

Division of Korea[edit]

South Korea[edit]

The gate of Busan's Chinatown, located in Choryang-dong, Dong-gu

Prior to and during the Korean War, many Chinese residing in the northern half of the Korean peninsula migrated to the southern half.[21] After the division of Korea, the Chinese population in South Korea would remain stable for some time; however, when Park Chung Hee took power in a coup on May 16, 1961, he began to implement currency reforms and property restrictions which severely harmed the interests of the Chinese community, spurring an exodus.[14] Incheon once had the largest Chinese population in Korea, but as the pace of emigration increased, the number diminished. It is estimated that only 26,700 of the old Chinese community now remain in South Korea; they largely hold Republic of China nationality.[4]

However, in recent years, immigration from mainland China has increased; 696,861 persons of PRC nationality have immigrated to South Korea, making them 55.1% of the total 1,139,283 foreign citizens living in South Korea. Among them are 488,100 of Korean descent (70% of PRC citizens in South Korea, and 40% of the total number of foreign citizens), and 208,761 of other ethnicities. Most of these new residents live in Seoul and its surroundings.[5]

There is a Chinese-language primary school in Myeongdong, as well as a high school in Seodaemun.[22]

North Korea[edit]

The population of PRC citizens in North Korea was estimated as 14,351 persons (in 3,778 households) in 1958, shrinking to a mere 6,000 by 1980, as they had been encouraged by the North Korean government to leave for China in the 1960s and 70s.[6] Recent estimates of their population vary. China's official Xinhua News Agency published a figure of 4,000 overseas Chinese and 100 international students in 2008.[23] The Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, gave a higher estimate of 10,000 people in 2009.[1] They live mostly in Pyongyang and in the areas near the Chinese border.[6]

After the surrender of Japan and the liberation of Korea from Japanese rule, Chinese living in the northern half of Korea quickly established new schools and rebuilt Chinese-language education, with aid from the Communist Party of China (CPC). In April 1949, the CPC's Northeast Administrative Committee formally handed control of these schools over to the North Korean government, which began some efforts to integrate them into the national educational system.[24] Early financial assistance from the North Korean government actually helped to maintain and expand Chinese education; the schools continued operation even during the Korean War, and the era after the cessation of hostilities up to around 1966 was described as a "golden era" for the schools. After that time, the North Korean government began to pursue a policy of reform and indigenisation towards the schools.[25] However, as of the late 1990s, there were still four Chinese middle schools which followed the PRC curriculum.[6] Some of their graduates go on to PRC universities; for example, Jinan University in Guangzhou had over 100 overseas Chinese students from North Korea as of 2002.[26] Yanbian University in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of China also began offering training programmes for teachers in overseas Chinese schools in North Korea beginning in 2002; 38 students from their first class graduated in 2005.[27]

Being foreign citizens, North Korea's Chinese people were not eligible to join the ruling Korean Workers Party or advance in the military or the civil bureaucracy. On the other hand, they were allowed somewhat greater freedoms, such as the right to own a radio that was not sealed to only allow being tuned to North Korean stations (as long they did not listen to foreign stations in presence of Koreans). More importantly, since around 1980 they were allowed to travel abroad, and participate in the important and profitable export-import business.[6] After the PRC government came out in support of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874 in June 2009, which imposed sanctions in North Korea, it was reported that North Korean surveillance and repression of Chinese residents had increased, and many had chosen to avoid making trips out of the country to avoid scrutiny. One Chinese resident was allegedly charged with espionage.[1]

Secondary migration[edit]

Due to the South Korean regulations in the 1960s which limited foreign property ownership, many Chinese in South Korea left the country.[28] During the 1970s, 15,000 are estimated to have moved to the United States, and another 10,000 to Taiwan. Further outmigration occurred during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis.[29] Others went to the PRC after its reform and opening up, to pursue commercial opportunities or simply to return to their ancestral hometowns.[28] For example, in Rizhao, Shandong alone, there are 8,200 returned overseas Chinese.[30]

Many Chinese from Korea who migrated to the U.S. have settled in areas with large Korean American communities, such as Los Angeles, and they have tended to integrate into the Korean American rather than Chinese American community.[29] Yet, some who went to the United States or Taiwan found they could not adapt to life there either due to linguistic and cultural barriers, and ended up returning to South Korea, in a form of circular migration.[28]

Notable people[edit]


Solo entertainers[edit]

Band members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Chinese in N.Korea 'Face Repression'", Chosun Ilbo, 2009-10-10, retrieved 2009-10-15 
  2. ^ "통계연보", JoongAng Ilbo, 2014-06-05, retrieved 2014-06-05 
  3. ^ Kim 2004, p. 694
  4. ^ a b c Kim, Hyung-jin (2006-08-29), "No 'real' Chinatown in S. Korea, the result of xenophobic attitudes", The Hankyoreh, Yonhap News, retrieved 2006-12-08 
  5. ^ a b "More Than 1 Million Foreigners Live in Korea", Chosun Ilbo, 2009-08-06, retrieved 2009-10-18 
  6. ^ a b c d e Lankov, Andrei (2007-11-18), "Chinese Community in NK", Korea Times, retrieved 2009-10-15 
  7. ^ Kim 2004, p. 688
  8. ^ a b Choi 2001, p. 2
  9. ^ Rhee 2009, p. 112
  10. ^ "Article: The vanishing of Chinatown: Chinese fail to thrive in South Korea", The Economist, 1996-08-03, retrieved 2009-10-15 
  11. ^ For example, the Deoksu Jang clan, founded by a Hui Chinese in 1275. See "덕수장씨 (Deoksu Jang Clan)". (Korean language). Archived from the original on 2005-11-19. Retrieved 2006-12-08. 
  12. ^ Kim 2004, p. 689
  13. ^ Hamashita 2001, p. 56
  14. ^ a b Rhee 2009, p. 113
  15. ^ Larsen 2008, p. 261
  16. ^ Hamashita 2001, p. 63
  17. ^ Duus 1995, pp. 256–257
  18. ^ Yi 2007, p. 111
  19. ^ do Rosario, Louise (2000-10-22), "Seoul's invisible Chinese rise up", The Straits Times, retrieved 2006-12-08 
  20. ^ Yi 2007, p. 112
  21. ^ a b Rhee 2009, p. 114
  22. ^ 韓國漢城華僑中學, Seoul Overseas Chinese High School, retrieved 2006-12-08 
  23. ^ "平壤中国留学生和华侨火炬手的心声 祝福北京奥运/Pyongyang's Chinese migrants and international students wish the Beijing Olympics good luck", Xinhua News, 2008-04-27, retrieved 2009-09-16 
  24. ^ Mu 2003
  25. ^ Mu 2001
  26. ^ 李成爱 (2002-10-25), "中国是祖国,朝鲜是家乡", 时代朝鲜网, retrieved 2009-10-15 
  27. ^ 张顺兴 (Zhang Shunxing) (2005-09-05), "首届朝鲜华侨教师大专班毕业/First North Korean overseas Chinese teacher training class graduates", Yanbian University News, retrieved 2009-10-15 
  28. ^ a b c Kim 2004, p. 690
  29. ^ a b Rhee 2009, p. 115
  30. ^ Chao 1998, p. 463


Further reading[edit]

  • Park, Heh-rahn (1996), Narratives of Migration: From the Formation of Korean Chinese Nationality in the PRC to the Emergence of Korean Chinese Migrants in South Korea, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Washington, OCLC 36173120 
  • Yang, Pil-seung; Yi, Jeong-hui (2004), 《차이나타운없는나라 : 한국화교경제의어제와오늘》 [A Country without a Chinatown: Yesterday and Today in the Overseas Chinese Economy of Korea], Seoul: Samseong Gyeongje Yeonguso, ISBN 978-89-7633-242-4, OCLC 58047117 
    • Also published in Chinese as 梁必承; 李正熙; 全敏 (translator) (2006), 《韩国, 沒有中国城的国家 : 21世纪型中国城的出现背景》, Beijing: Tsinghua University, ISBN 978-7-302-12742-0, OCLC 273498122 
  • 陆益龙 (2006), 《嵌入性适应模式:韩国华侨文化与生活方式的变迁》 [A Model of Embedded Adaptability: The Evolution of Society and Lifestyle Among Overseas Chinese in Korea], Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, ISBN 978-7-5004-5921-7, OCLC 173283674 
  • Wang, Mun-yong (2007), 《한국 화교 의 생활 과 정체성》 [Life and Identity of Overseas Chinese in Korea], 구술사료선집 [Materials of Oral History Series], Gwancheon, Gyeonggi-do: National Institute of Korean History, ISBN 978-89-8236-390-0, OCLC 262402436 
  • Choi, Sheena (2008), "Politics, Commerce, and Construction of Chinese 'Otherness' in Korea: Open Port Period (1876-1910)", in Kuah-Pearce, Khun Eng; Davidson, Andrew P., At home in the Chinese diaspora: memories, identities and belongings, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 128–145, ISBN 978-0-230-50698-5