Koreans in Germany

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Koreans in Germany
Total population
31,248 (2009)[1]
Korean, German
Mahayana Buddhism,[2] Christianity[3]
Related ethnic groups
Korean diaspora

Koreans in Germany numbered 31,248 individuals as of 2009, according to the statistics of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Though they are now only the 14th-largest Korean diaspora community worldwide, they remain the second-largest in Western Europe, behind the rapidly growing community of Koreans in the United Kingdom.[1] As of 2010, Germany has been hosting the second largest number of Koreans residing in Western Europe if one excludes Korean sojourners (students and general sojourners).

The biggest community of Koreans are situated in the Frankfurt-Rhine Main Area, with 5,300 residents. This area also contains German and European headquarters of large Korean companies such as Kia Motors, Hyundai, Samsung Electronics, LG International, SK Network, Nexen Tire.


South Koreans[edit]

Some students, nurses, and industrial trainees from South Korea had already been in West Germany in the late 1950s.[4] However, mass migration did not begin until the 1960s, when West Germany invited nurses and miners from South Korea to come as Gastarbeiter; their recruitment of labourers specifically from South Korea was driven not just by economic necessity, but also by a desire to demonstrate support for a country that, like Germany, had been divided by ideology.[5] The first group of miners arrived on 16 December 1963, under a programme paid for largely by the South Korean government; German enterprises were not responsible for travel costs, but only for wages and language training. They had high levels of education compared with other Gastarbeiter of the same era; over 60% had completed high school or tertiary education. Nurses began arriving in large numbers in 1966.[4] Koreans were one of the few non-European groups recruited; West German migration policy generally excluded workers of African and Asian origin during the 1950s through 1970s.[6] After living in Germany, some Koreans migrated onwards to the United States under the relaxed entrance standards of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.[7] Though the South Korean workers came on limited-term contracts and most initially planned to return home, in the end, half of workers enlisted ended up remaining in Germany. Throughout the 1970s, they staged protests demanding the right to stay, citing their contributions to the economy and health care system; in the end, the West German government refrained from expelling those whose work contracts had expired, instead letting them move on to other work.[4][6]

North and South Korea vied for influence among the Korean community in West Germany during the 1960s and 1970s; North Korea sent operatives to West Germany disguised as professors in order to recruit among the Korean community there.[8] In 1967, South Korea forcibly extradited, without the consent of the West German government, a number of Koreans suspected of spying for the North, the most famous of whom was composer and later German citizen Isang Yun. They were tortured to extract false confessions, and six were sentenced to death. West Germany expelled three South Korean diplomats in the aftermath of the incident, and seriously considered breaking off diplomatic relations with South Korea.[9] However, they decided against it as the South's attention shifted to the assassination attempt on Park Chung-hee and the USS Pueblo incident, and instead worked quietly to ensure the release of those who had been kidnapped.[10]

There has been a movement among South Korean miners in Germany in 2011 to let the South Korean government officially recognize their patriotic effort.[11]

North Koreans[edit]

1953: North Korean guest students arrive in East-Berlin

There was also a Korean presence in East Germany, though it was much smaller. During the post-Korean War reconstruction period of North Korea from 1953 to 1962, many North Korean students enrolled in universities and colleges in the Soviet bloc, and others came as industrial trainees.[12] In 1955, their numbers in East Germany were estimated at 334 students, 302 industrial trainees, and 298 orphans. However, as the Sino-Soviet split worsened, the North Korean government ordered nearly all of their overseas nationals to return home, and by 1962, few North Koreans were left in Germany. Even those who married locals obeyed the recall order and left their spouses behind; in one case, an East German woman was able to confirm that her North Korean husband was still alive after more than four decades without contact, but others have never seen or heard any information about their spouses since.[13][14] In the 1980s, relations between North Korea and East Germany improved again, and about 1,500 North Korean students came to East Germany.[15] Even after the German reunification, the Pyongyang government continued to send some students to Germany for technical training; the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in March 2001, and Germans working in North Korea have reported meeting German-speaking engineers and technicians.[16] In 2009, North Korean scientists and engineers were denied renewal of their stay permits in Germany, even in cases where their scholarships were renewed. This was not reported in the press.[citation needed]

Return migration[edit]

Some Koreans settled in Germany have begun returning to South Korea after retirement, bringing German spouses with them; this return migration has resulted in the creation of a "German Village" in South Gyeongsang's Namhae County.[17]


Over 70% of second-generation Korean descendants in Germany hold at least an Abitur or higher educational qualification, more than twice the ratio for the rest of the population (see also: Academic achievement among different groups in Germany).[4] Outside of the regular educational system, Koreans in Germany are also served by 37 weekend Korean-language schools, the earliest of which, the Köln Koreans' School, was established on 10 April 1973. Further schools were founded in Aachen, Hamburg, Rüsselsheim, Düsseldorf, Neunkirchen, Bickenbach, Bochum, Hannover, Kamp-Lintfort, Krefeld, Dortmund, Germering and Hamminkeln in the 1970s, Essen, Berlin, Dudweiler, Kassel, Marl, Leverkusen, Oberhausen, Göttingen, Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, Bremen, Karlsruhe, Wuppertal, Augsburg, Heidelberg, Herzogenaurach, and Osnabrück in the 1980s, and Münster, Wolfsburg, Kiel, Freiburg, Siegen, and Rimpar in the 1990s. As of 2007, total enrollment in all Korean schools across Germany was 1,748 students.[18]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b "재외동포현황/Current Status of Overseas Compatriots". South Korea: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2009. Archived from the original on 2010-10-23. Retrieved 2009-05-21.
  2. ^ "Korean Buddhist organisations in Germany". World Buddhist Directory. Buddha Dharma Education Association. 2006. Retrieved 2008-10-12.
  3. ^ Cyrus, Norbert (March 2005). "Active Civic Participation of Immigrants in Germany" (PDF). Building Europe with New Citizens? An Inquiry into the Civic Participation of Naturalised Citizens and Foreign Residents in 25 Countries. European Commission: 36. Retrieved 2009-03-09.; cites Yoo 1996, listed below
  4. ^ a b c d Choi, Sun-Ju; Lee, You-Jae (January 2006). "Umgekehrte Entwicklungshilfe - Die koreanische Arbeitsmigration in Deutschland (Reverse Development Assistance - Korean labour migration in Germany)" (PDF) (in German). Seoul: Goethe Institute.
  5. ^ Creutzenberg, Jan (2007-05-22). "Two Stories of Exploitation and Integration: Double lecture on Korean and Vietnamese work migration in Germany". OhmyNews. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  6. ^ a b Schönwälder, Karen (March 2003). "Why Germany's guestworkers were largely Europeans: The selective principles of post-war labour recruitment policy". Ethnic and Racial Studies. 27 (2): 248–265. doi:10.1080/0141987042000177324.
  7. ^ Kang, Tai S. (March 1990). "An ethnography of Koreans in Queens, New York, and elsewhere in the United States" (PDF). Ethnographic Exploratory Research Report #8. Center for Survey Methods Research, Bureau of the Census. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  8. ^ Kim, Chang-hui (1997). "동백림사건요? 코미디였지요". Donga Ilbo. Archived from the original on 2005-03-10. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  9. ^ Cumings, Bruce (2005). Korea's place in the sun : a modern history (Updated ed.). New York: W.W. Norton. p. 346. ISBN 978-0393327021.
  10. ^ a b Gil, Yun-hyeong (2004-10-30). "독일, 당시 국교단절 검토: 67년 윤이상씨등 서울로 납치 '동백림사건' 항의 (Germany considered breaking off relations at the time: Protests over the 1967 "East Berlin incident" kidnapping of Isang Yun and others)". The Hankyoreh. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  11. ^ Wang (왕), Gil-hwan (길환) (2011-04-14). 파독광부들 "국가유공자로 인정해 달라". Yonhap News (in Korean). Retrieved 2011-12-08.
  12. ^ Armstrong, Charles K. (May 2005). "Fraternal Socialism: The International Reconstruction of North Korea, 1953–62". Cold War History. 5 (2): 161–187. doi:10.1080/1462740500061160.
  13. ^ Frank, Rüdiger (December 1996). Die DDR und Nordkorea. Der Wiederaufbau der Stadt Hamhŭng von 1954–1962 (in German). Aachen: Shaker. ISBN 3-8265-5472-8.
  14. ^ Ryu, Kwon-ha (2007-02-13). "North Korean husband of German woman is alive". JoongAng Ilbo. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  15. ^ Green, Chris (2011-05-31). "An Anti-Reform Marriage of Convenience". Daily NK. Retrieved 2011-06-04.
  16. ^ Pak, Sung-jo (2001-03-11). "Germany Gets Maximum Concessions from NK". Chosun Ilbo. Archived from the original on June 14, 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  17. ^ Onishi, Norimitsu (2005-08-09). "In a Corner of South Korea, a Taste of German Living". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-30.
  18. ^ "Overseas Korean Educational Institutions: Germany". National Institute for International Education Development, Republic of Korea. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
  19. ^ Whittall, Arnold (Spring 2000). "Unsuk Chin in focus: Meditations and mechanics". Musical Times. The Musical Times, Vol. 141, No. 1870. 141 (1870): 21–32. doi:10.2307/1004366. JSTOR 1004366. Archived from the original on 2005-04-05.
  20. ^ Harden, Blaine (2010-02-22). "A family and a conscience, destroyed by North Korea's cruelty". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-02-25.
  21. ^ Kajimura, Tai'ichiro (2004-12-10). "Democracy and National Security in South Korea: The Song Du Yol Affair". Japan Focus. ISSN 1557-4660. Archived from the original on 2007-06-02. Retrieved 2007-07-13.

Works cited[edit]

  • Yoo, Jung-Sook (1996). Koreanische Immigranten in Deutschland: Interessensvertretung und Selbsorganisation. Hamburg: Verlag Dr. Kovač. ISBN 3-86064-502-1.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]