Korean New Zealanders
|Regions with significant populations|
|Auckland (72.8%), Canterbury (15%), Waikato (4%), Wellington (3%)|
|Christianity (70%); No religion (20%); Buddhism (5%)|
|Related ethnic groups|
Korean New Zealanders (Korean: 한국계 뉴질랜드인), also referred to informally as "Korean Kiwis" or "Kowis", are New Zealand citizens and residents of Korean ancestry. The 2006 New Zealand census found 30,792 Koreans in the country, virtually all from South Korea, making them the third-largest Asian population there, and more than 0.75 per cent of the total population of New Zealand.
The Korean population in New Zealand has been strongly affected by New Zealand immigration policies. Until a policy change made in 1987, preference was given to English-speaking migrants, especially those from Commonwealth of Nations countries. In 1991 a new policy took effect in which potential migrants were ranked according to a points system based on factors such as education, occupation and wealth. This made it far easier for people from Korea and other Asian countries to migrate to New Zealand, and dramatically increased the number of Korean New Zealanders.
In 1986, there were only 426 Koreans in New Zealand; that had doubled to 903 in 1991, and their population growth accelerated throughout the first half of the 1990s; there were roughly 3,000 people of Korean descent in New Zealand in 1992, according to unofficial estimates, and by the time of the 1996 Census, their population had quadrupled to 12,657 individuals, making them the fastest-growing population group. Growth slowed after that, with only a further 50% increase in the Korean population by 2001.
72.8 percent or 21,981 people of all Koreans in New Zealand live in the Auckland region (with 70% of this group living on the North Shore), with a further 15% in the Canterbury region, 4% in the Waikato region, and 3% in Wellington. Half were under 24 years of age in 2001; one in three of those were unemployed, the highest among five Asian groups, reflecting the challenges they face in adapting to cultural differences.
Women outnumbered men in every age group besides 15 and under; the imbalance was most severe in the 25-39 age group, with only 71 men for every 100 women. This gender gap is mainly the result of the so-called astronaut family phenomenon, also seen among Chinese New Zealanders and Koreans in other countries, in which male heads of households who found their earning power decreased after emigration returned to their country of origin while their wives and children remained in the destination country. Although many heads of households qualified for New Zealand immigration due to their professional qualifications, they find only unskilled work is available to them due to their poor English skills. The high levels of unemployment among Koreans in New Zealand mean that their median personal income was only NZ$5,700, according to Department of Labour statistics.
Education and language issues
The desire to offer children a lower-pressure educational experience in an English-speaking country, as well as a cleaner environment, is a major motivation for Korean migration to New Zealand. Of the 7,696 Koreans pursuing secondary or tertiary education in New Zealand as of 2001, 50% were studying in English as a second language courses. 1.5 generation Koreans who migrated at a young age show a marked shift towards English regardless of which region their parents settled in, but among those who migrated at the age of 16 or older, Wellington residents also showed a much stronger preference for English, while those in other regions maintained Korean as their preferred language. In the 1996 census, 40.7% of Koreans stated that they could not hold a conversation in English, the highest proportion for any group; however, by the 2001 census, that figure had decreased to 21% for males and 27% for females.
Korean New Zealanders maintain close contact with their homeland through return trips or with technologies such as phones and emails; one 1998 survey showed that 61% of overseas trips undertaken by Korean New Zealanders had South Korea as their destination. Australia and Japan were the next most popular destinations. In addition, young Korean New Zealanders make extensive use of Korean language internet portal sites such as Cyworld and KakaoTalk in order to communicate with friends in South Korea; this has resulted in Korean New Zealanders retaining a far better command of Korean than their Korean American counterparts.
70% of Koreans in New Zealand identify as Christians, while roughly another 20% claim to follow no religion. Buddhists number only about 5%. One Christian newspaper estimates that roughly 35-40% of all Koreans are "active Christians" who regularly attend worship services, mostly at one of New Zealand's 100 Korean churches. Korean Christians in New Zealand are largely of the Presbyterian denomination, though some are also Baptist. They attend non-Korean churches less often due to language barriers and cultural differences within the church. In Korean churches, the pastor has much more authority, and many churches open as early as 5AM for morning prayers. New Zealand's Korean Christians are served by a weekly Christian newspaper published in the Korean language, which claims to have a circulation of 3,500; it discusses religious issues as well as issues of common interest to immigrants, such as migration law and property ownership.
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- Danny Lee, youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur of golf
- Melissa Lee, New Zealand's first MP of Korean origin
- Jong-uk Yoo, New Zealand's first private investigator of Korean origin.
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