Immigration to South Korea

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Although immigration to South Korea is low due to strict immigration policies, it is on the rise. Foreign residents account for 2.8% of the total population.[1]

Most immigrants are not eligible for citizenship or even permanent residency, unless they are married to a South Korean citizen or have invested more than $5 million USD in the local economy. An exception is made for those whose non-financial contribution to the nation has been specifically recognized by the Minister of Justice, and for holders of a business visa who have invested more than US$500,000.[2]

Statistics[edit]

Nationalities of legal foreign residents, who are mostly temporary workers, in South Korea as of August 2016.[3]

Rank Country Population
1  China 1,045,533
2  United States 150,778
3  Vietnam 144,362
4  Thailand 92,417
5  Philippines 54,182
6  Uzbekistan 53,816
7  Cambodia 45,610
8  Indonesia 42,110
9  Japan 41,236
10  Mongolia 35,091
11    Nepal 33,221
12  Taiwan 30,985
13  Russia 30,098
14  Canada 27,363
15  Sri Lanka 27,360
16  Myanmar 21,534
17  Bangladesh 15,151
18  Pakistan 12,511
19  Hong Kong 11,460
20  India 10,637
21  Australia 9,764
22  United Kingdom 7,896
23  New Zealand 3,917
- Others 87,846
- Total 2,034,878

Government agencies[edit]

Immigration policy is overseen by the Ministry of Justice through the Korea Immigration Service. Related ministries include: Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Health and Welfare, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The Nationality Act, Immigration Control Act, Multicultural Families Support the Act, and Framework Act on Treatment of Foreigners are the foundation of immigration policy in Korea.

The government of Korea initiated a discussion whether to establish independent Immigration Office to accommodate fast-growing immigration and to prepare inclusive and rational immigration policies, from 2003, without progress. The Foreigner Policy Committee headed by the Prime Minister is responsible for coordinating policies concerning foreigners, which had formerly been handled by multiple ministries. However, its role is limited due to a shortage of resources and manpower. Establishing an Immigration Office is expected to solve these problems by concentrating all the related resources and manpower under one umbrella.[4]

According to the UN Recommendations on Statistics of International Migration (revised in 1998), long-term international immigration is recorded after an individual enters a country and establishes his usual place of residence there for more than a year. So, When Korea government build new policies, immigrant laborers and children of illegal migrants should be counted to follow this guideline.

The Republic of Korea is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. The Korean government is the competent authority to determine refugee status in Korea.

Migrant laborers[edit]

Korea used to be a migrant-source country, sending farmers, miners, nurses, and workers to the United States, Germany, and the Middle East. The Korean diaspora numbers 6.82 million as of 2009, including 2.34 million in China and 2.1 million in the United States, a slight decline of 220,000 since 2007.[5]

The South Korean economy grew almost non-stop from near zero to over a trillion dollars in less than half a century

Korea experienced government-initiated rapid economic growth from the 1970s on, which has been called the "Miracle on the Han River". Until the end of the 1980s, Korea was able to sustain its development without foreign laborers because it had enough cheap labor. In the 1990s, however, Korea's plummeting birth rate and growing cost of labor caused labor shortages especially in the so-called "3D jobs" (for "dirty, dangerous, and difficult").

Economic development and urbanization led many people to leave rural areas and move to the city in search of jobs and better living conditions. However, according to Confucian norms, the eldest son must remain in the countryside with his parents. A chronic shortage of marriageable women arose in rural areas, and international marriages began to fill this unmet demand. Most international marriage cases are handled by dating service companies that earn a commission.

Many migrant workers live in Korea, particularly in the industrial suburbs of Gyeonggi Province such as Siheung and Ansan, where foreigners account for 7.6% of the population.[6] The largest number of migrants come from China; out of a total of 55,154 D-3 visa holders in 2005, 17,787 were from China.[7] Other migrants come from South and Southeast Asia.

Interracial marriage[edit]

Since the 21st century, interracial marriages in South Korea have grown rapidly and has become highly diverse today - The number of countries represented by foreign husbands and wives have increased from 88 countries in 2001 to 143 countries in 2015.

In the 1990s, many brides from neighboring Asian nations such as China and Vietnam have originally immigrated to farming communities in South Korea's countryside. Since the 2000s, the trend spread nationwide and diversified to include all women in East and Southeast Asia. For example, in 2001 there were 5,700 Japanese wives married to Korean men living in South Korea - Their immigration to Korea more than doubled to 11,631 in 2015.

Foreign husbands have also increased significantly. In 2001, there were only 967 foreign husbands living in South Korea. In 2015, 2433 American, 1218 Japanese and 1109 Canadian husbands had settled in the country, along with many from a diverse number of European nations. Korean women have also married significantly more South Asian men from countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India or Iran than Korean men marrying women from these countries. This was also true for African men, such as those from Nigeria, who have visited Korea more often than others. Many husbands from these countries have settled in the country after coming to Korea originally for work experience or study.

Korean men married significantly more women from Post-Soviet states such as Russia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus than vice versa, since many brides from these nations are ethnically Korean. This was also true for wives from many Central American nations, some South American nations and all East Asian and Southeast Asian nations.

However, other Asians immigrating to the country to marry Koreans have been consistently declining since 2007, while Western husbands and wives settling in the country with Koreans instead have been consistently rising in the same period.[8]

Foreign husbands and wives married to Koreans living in South Korea as of 2015[9]

Rank Nationality Husbands Wives  % Female
1  Vietnam 894 39,953 97.8
2  China 4,689 30,969 89.0
3  China (Ethnically Korean) 7,190 15,940 68.9
4  Japan 1,220 11,641 90.5
5  Philippines 328 11,039 98.0
6  Cambodia 45 4,510 99.0
7  United States 2,440 752 23.4
8  Thailand 75 2,746 97.4
9  Mongolia 104 2,280 95.5
10  Uzbekistan 75 2,066 96.5
11  Canada 1,109 186 14.3
12  Russia 82 1,079 92.9
13    Nepal 149 932 86.0
14  Pakistan 810 105 11.7
15  Taiwan 79 744 90.9
16  United Kingdom 723 69 8.7
17  Indonesia 72 572 88.8
18  Kyrgyzstan 10 472 97.9
19  Australia 316 66 17.3
20  France 311 59 16.2
21  Bangladesh 305 50 14.5
22  Laos 1 301 99.7
23  Sri Lanka 239 61 20.4
24  New Zealand 221 21 8.7
25  Germany 197 49 16.9
26  Hong Kong 44 197 82.0
27  Kazakhstan 12 223 94.9
28  India 152 29 15.8
29  Malaysia 20 132 86.8
30  Russia (Ethnically Korean) 8 136 94.4
31  Nigeria 137 0 0.0
32  Myanmar 36 86 70.6
33  Iran 108 9 7.9
34  South Africa 93 19 17.0
35  Ireland 98 9 8.4
36  Turkey 72 24 25.0
37  Peru 35 58 62.0
38  Mexico 36 50 57.6
39  Italy 69 11 13.9
40  Ukraine 15 62 80.5
41  Morocco 42 36 46.8
42  Spain 48 24 33.3
43  Brazil 32 41 56.3
44  Singapore 22 48 68.6
45  Netherlands 41 6 12.8
46  Poland 21 26 54.3
47  Egypt 41 4 9.3
48   Switzerland 36 6 19.4
49  Sweden 27 12 30.8
50  Romania 6 23 79.3
51  Belarus 5 22 80.8
52  Colombia 10 16 60.0
53  Norway 22 3 12.5
54  Belgium 22 4 13.0
55  Hungary 9 14 59.1
56  Austria 12 8 40.0
57  Denmark 15 1 6.3
56  Argentina 5 10 66.7
57  Tunisia 7 7 50.0
58  Paraguay 2 12 85.7
59  Jordan 12 3 21.4
60  Finland 6 7 53.8
61  Ghana 11 1 8.3
62  Algeria 2 10 83.3
63  Ethiopia 4 8 66.7
64  Israel 8 4 33.3
65  Bulgaria 6 6 50.0
66  Albania 8 3 27.3
67  Greece 10 1 9.1
68  Chile 4 6 60.0
69  Czech Republic 5 4 44.4
70  Portugal 9 1 11.1
71  Guatemala 0 9 100.0
72  Uganda 9 0 0.0
73  Cameroon 6 3 33.3
74  Syria 6 3 33.3
75  Kenya 6 2 25.0
76  Honduras 2 6 75.0
77  Dominican Republic 2 6 75.0
78  Yemen 4 4 50.0
79  Tajikistan 1 8 87.5
80  Ecuador 4 4 50.0
81  Tanzania 6 1 14.3
82  British Virgin Islands 1 6 85.7
83  Bolivia 0 6 100.0
84  Moldova 2 4 66.7
85  Armenia 2 4 66.7
86  Croatia 5 1 16.7
87  Latvia 1 4 80.0
88  Uruguay 1 4 80.0
89  Venezuela 1 4 80.0
90  Turkmenistan 0 4 100.0
91  Afghanistan 5 0 0.0
92  Cuba 3 2 40.0
93  Slovenia 5 1 16.6
94  Nicaragua 0 5 100.0
95  Serbia 3 2 40.0
96  El Salvador 1 3 75.0
97  Democratic Republic of the Congo 4 0 0.0
98  Costa Rica 4 1 20.0
99  Madagascar 0 4 100.0
100  Ivory Coast 4 0 0.0
- Others 47 25 34.7
- Total 23,272 128,336 84.6

Recent history[edit]

In 2007 the UN declared Korea an official receiving country. The number of foreigners in South Korea grew from 390,000 in 1997 to 1 million in 2007. Among these are 630,000 temporary laborers, as well as 100,000 foreigners married to South Korean nationals. Furthermore, there are 230,000 illegal immigrants.

Main sending countries are Asian countries, such as China, Vietnam, Mongolia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. However, migrants also come from Nigeria, Ghana, Russia, Colombia and the United States.[10]

From June 14, 1998, those who have at least one Korean parent are automatically granted Korean nationality from birth, regardless of their decisions on whether to choose the nationality of the foreign parent or the country of birth (if born outside Korea).

Requirements for General Naturalization include:

  • Must have had domicile address in R.O.K. for more than five consecutive years
  • Must be a legal adult according to Korean Civil Law
  • Must have good conduct
  • Must have the ability to maintain living on his/her own assets or skills; or is a dependent member of a family so capable. Applicants must have basic knowledge befitting a Korean national; such as understanding of the Korean language, customs and culture

The South Korean Government says it wants to create a multicultural society and foreigner-friendly environment.[11]

Issues with current immigrant policies[edit]

As described in the new national plan for immigration policy, the government claims a world-class Korea welcoming of foreigners. However, critics argue that the government’s goals and policies are fundamentally discriminatory. In response, the South Korean government introduced new regulations in April 2014, which meant foreign spouses would have to pass a Korean-language proficiency test and earn a minimum wage of $14,000.[12][13]

Temporary workers and illegal immigrants[edit]

Since 1991 Korea has experienced a large influx of foreign workers. Approximately 10,000 Asian workers came to Korea under a newly established trainee program in 1992. In June 1996, there were 57,000 trainees in Korea. Despite its growth, the trainee program also had problems—namely that the trainees became undocumented workers due to wage differentials, and that they were not protected by the Labor Standard Law as they were not considered laborers.

Since 2004, the Korean government has followed the "Employment Permit Program" for foreigners, the product of a decade of interaction between Korean citizens and foreign migrant workers. Legally, foreigners are allowed to enter mainly to fulfill low-wage jobs, and they are excluded from receiving social services. Public opinion data shows that Korean citizens retain a discriminatory attitude towards foreign workers.

Immigration violations of human rights[edit]

There are many reports from legal and illegal immigrants which have jailed in many prisons in South Korea because of small problems or misunderstanding their visas for long time. Also, there are some reports about beating and abusing the prisoners. South Korea immigration also forced them to buy the deportation ticket.

Foreign brides and children of multicultural families[edit]

Foreign brides and their multicultural children are growing into a major political issue. Sending countries are likely to worry about their immigrants due to deep-rooted discrimination against foreigners in Korea. Now, most immigration into Korea comes from Southeast Asia, and immigrant treatment, particularly if there is abuse of foreign brides, is likely to provoke not only domestic problems, but also diplomatic tension. What immigration there has been, is frequently so focused on the birth-rate problem that it is more properly called bride-importing than immigration.[14]

Kosian
Hangul 코시안 or 온누리안
Revised Romanization Kosian or Onnurian
McCune–Reischauer K'osian or Onnurian

The terms "kosian" or "onnurian" refer to a person of mixed heritage, most commonly applied to children of a South Korean father and a Southeast Asian mother.[15] The term "Kosian" was coined in 1997 by intercultural families to refer to themselves,[16] but its use spread in the early 2000s as international marriages became increasingly common in rural areas.[17] It is considered offensive by some who prefer to identify simply as Korean.[18][19]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ http://thediplomat.com/2014/07/korea-redefines-multiculturalism/
  2. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20071212091356/http://www.dh.go.kr/open_content/english/goverment/09_04_08.htm
  3. ^ http://www.immigration.go.kr/doc_html/attach/imm/f2016//20160830263386_1_1.hwp.files/Sections1.html
  4. ^ Jaehong Kim. 석동현 출입국 외국인정책본부장. LawTimes (in Korean). 
  5. ^ "Korean Diasporas Statistics". Overseas Korean Foundation. Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. 
  6. ^ Mundy, Simon (September 17, 2013). "S Korea struggles to take in foreign workers". Financial Times. 
  7. ^ Bureau of Immigration (2006). "국적 및 체류자격별". 2005년도 출입국관리 통계연보. Seoul. pp. 420–473. 
  8. ^ http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2016/03/11/2016031102043.html
  9. ^ http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2016/03/11/2016031102043.html
  10. ^ "Immigrants in Korea". National Statistics Office. Archived from the original on 2008-06-30. 
  11. ^ Basic Plan South Korean Government
  12. ^ Jeonghoon Jang. 아름다운 재단 - 공감. Beautiful Foundation (in Korean). 
  13. ^ "South Korea government steps in to regulate mixed marriages". The Japan Times. Agence France-Presse / Jiji Press. 12 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Prof. Robert Kelly. "Korea's Slow Boiling Demographic Crisis". Asian Security & US Foreign Relations Blog. 
  15. ^ "코시안의 집이란". Kosian House website. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  16. ^ "KOSIAN Community". Ansan Immigrant Center website. Archived from the original on December 16, 2005. Retrieved 2006-11-01. 
  17. ^ "'코시안'(Kosian) 쓰지 마라! (Do not use Kosian)". Naver news (in Korean). February 23, 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-04. 
  18. ^ Myth of Pure-Blood Nationalism Blocks Multi-Ethnic Society in The Korean Times
  19. ^ "'코시안'(Kosian) 쓰지 마라!". Naver news (Korean language) February 23, 2006 (in Korean). Retrieved 2006-03-04. 

External links[edit]