Koreans in Thailand
|Regions with significant populations|
|Bangkok · Phuket · Chonburi · Chiang Mai|
|Korean · Thai|
|Mahayana Buddhism and Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
Koreans in Thailand consist mainly of North Korean refugees and South Korean expatriates, along with a tiny number of South Korean immigrants who have naturalised as citizens of Thailand and their descendants. According to South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in 2013 there were about 20,000 Koreans living in the country.
North Korean refugees
Thailand's Chiang Rai province is a popular entry point for North Korean defectors into the country. Most of these defectors have escaped economic hardship in North Korea and traveled to Thailand for temporary refuge in the hope of being able to resettle in third countries, usually South Korea. Thailand is the easiest route to access and the most accommodating, compared to Mongolia and Vietnam, where border security is tighter and in some cases, those fleeing have been sent back to North Korea to face harsh punishment.
South Korean expatriates
A variety of factors have drawn South Korean expatriates to Thailand including the country's golf courses, as well as the cuisine, the weather, and business opportunities. There were an estimated 20,000 South Korean nationals or former nationals in Thailand as of 2011. Among them, 53 had obtained Thai nationality, 114 were permanent residents, 2,735 were international students, and the remaining 16,000-odd South Korean residents had other kinds of visas. Their population fell by about 13% from 20,200 since 2009. 14,900 live in Bangkok, 2,000 in Chiang Mai, 1,800 in Phuket, and 1,300 in Chonburi. Their community exhibits a significantly lopsided sex ratio, with 11,843 men as compared to just 8,657 women, a ratio of about 1.4:1.
Bangkok has a Koreatown located in the Sukhumvit Plaza area near Sukhumvit Soi 12. Phuket also has a Koreatown and numerous Korean restaurants. There has been controversy over South Koreans working as tour guides without holding proper employment visas; the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Korean Association in Phuket, and the South Korean consulate in Phuket signed an agreement in 2007 to promote the hiring of Thai tour guides instead. Korean culture is popular throughout the country thanks to the Korean Wave.
Education and language
There were two Korean Buddhist temples and thirteen Korean Christian churches in Bangkok as of 2008. The Korean Union Church at Ratchadaphisek Road is the most popular. The average Korean church in Bangkok has an attendance of about a hundred or two hundred worshippers.
In popular culture
Thai martial arts film The Kick follows a family of South Korean Taekwondo experts who move to Thailand.
- "남아시아태평양", 《재외동포현황》, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2013-09-30, p. 103, retrieved 2015-04-30
- "Illegal North Korean migrants on rise", Bangkok Post, 5 June 2011
- "Thailand: North Koreans escape from hunger", IRIN Asia, 5 June 2011
- "Korean community blossoming in Bangkok", Thai Asia Today, 2008-09-14, archived from the original on 2010-09-02, retrieved 2012-03-30
- "Phuket's Korea Town: A Clash of Cultures", Phuket Magazine, 27 July 2011
- "Agreement reached over illegal Korean guides", Phuket News, 2007-09-05, archived from the original on 2012-02-28, retrieved 2012-03-30
- Jeon, Yun-Sil (2003), A comparison of Social and Linguistic Features in the Korean communities in Bangkok and Buenos Aires (PDF), Asia Research Center, Chulakorn University, retrieved 2012-03-30