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Koreans in China

Koreans in China
Total population
2,489,076 (2009)[1]
1,923,842 are ethnic Koreans with Chinese citizenship (2005 statistics); almost all the rest are expatriates from North or South Korea
Regions with significant populations
Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, provinces, Beijing Koreatown and other Chinese cities
Korean, Chinese
[2] · Christianity
Related ethnic groups

The population of Koreans in China include millions of descendants of Korean immigrants with citizenship of the People's Republic of China, as well as smaller groups of South and North Korean expatriates, with a total of roughly 2.3 million people as of 2009,[1] making it the largest ethnic Korean population living outside the Korean Peninsula.

Chaoxianzu ([2] and 1,830,929 according to the 2010 Chinese census. High levels of emigration to South Korea, which has conversely reported a large increase in Joseonjok, are the likely cause of the drop. Most of them live in Northeast China, especially in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, which had 854,000 ethnic Koreans living there as of 2000.


  • Etymology 1
  • History 2
    • Korea under Japanese rule 2.1
    • Since 1949 2.2
  • Culture 3
  • Identity 4
  • North Koreans 5
  • South Koreans 6
  • Notable people 7
    • Historical figures 7.1
    • Contemporary Chaoxianzu/Joseonjok 7.2
    • Expatriates of other nationalities and their descendants 7.3
  • See also 8
  • References 9
    • Citations 9.1
    • Sources 9.2
  • External links 10


The South Korean media of the 1990s referred to Koreans in China as jungguk-in (Hangul: 중국인; hanja: 中國人, "Chinese people"). However, government regulations in 2004 forced the usage of the term jaeoe dongpo (在外同胞 "brothers and sisters who live abroad"). Similarly friendly terms include hanguk gye jungguk-in (Hangul: 한국계 중국인; hanja: 韓國系中國人; "Chinese people of Korean descent") or jungguk dongpo (中國同胞 brothers and sisters in China). However, the common term in South Korea is joseon-jok (Hangul: 조선족; hanja: 朝鲜族), which Koreans from China criticised for being a less friendly term than those for other overseas Koreans like Korean Americans (jaemi gyopo, 在美僑胞 "Brothers and sisters in America") or Koreans in Japan (jaeil gyopo, 在日僑胞 "Brothers and sisters in Japan").[3]


The current Korean population in China is mainly descended from migrants who came between 1860 and 1945. In the 1860s, a series of natural disasters struck Korea, leading to disastrous famines. Along with the Qing dynasty's loosening of border controls and acceptance of external migration into Northeast China, this pushed many Koreans to migrate. By 1894, an estimated 34,000 Koreans lived in China, with numbers increasing to 109,500 in 1910. Koreans in Qing territory were forced to wear their hair in the Queue hairstyle.[4][5]

Korea under Japanese rule

After the annexation of Korea by the Empire of Japan in 1910, many Koreans migrated to China for political reasons.[3] Some migrants joined the Korean independence movement, while others served as pro-Japanese collaborators or as farmers tilling free land promised to them by Japanese occupying authorities in northeast China. Koreans served as tax collectors in China for the Japanese, stimulating ethnic resentment among the disadvantaged Chinese.[3]

By 1936, there were 854,411 Koreans in China. As Japanese rule extended to China. During World War II, many Koreans in China joined the Chinese peoples in fighting against the Japanese invaders. Many also joined on the Communist side and fought against the Chinese Nationalist armies during the Chinese Civil War. After 1949, estimated at about 600 thousand individuals, or 40% of the Korean population at the time, chose to return to the Korean peninsula. But most Koreans chose to stay in China and took up Chinese citizenship between 1949 (the end of the Chinese Civil War) and 1952.[6]

Since 1949

After the founding of the People's Republic of China, many Chinese of Korean descent joined the People's Volunteer Army on the side of North Korea during the Korean War,[7] for which they were awarded ethnic autonomous regions by the Communist Chinese.[3] Yanbian, where most ethnic Koreans live, was designated as an autonomous county in 1952, and was upgraded to an autonomous prefecture in 1955.[7] A Changbai Korean Autonomous County was designated in Jilin province, as well as several autonomous Korean districts in Heilongjiang, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia.[8] However, from around 1990, the ethnic Korean population of Yanbian began shrinking because of increased emigration. The share of the ethnic Korean population in Yanbian dropped from 60.2% in 1953 to 36.3% in 2000. This process is a result of social changes in the ethnic Korean community. The success of the economic reforms in China brought fast growth. In the past, most ethnic Koreans aspired to become good farmers. Now, success is increasingly associated with a college degree and/or migration to larger cities. Koreans are one of the most educated ethnic groups in China,[9] and is regarded as a model minority.[10] They are also well represented in college professorships. Korean language publications are encouraged by the state, and most Korean high school graduates take the National Higher Education Entrance Examination in Korean.[11]

A significant proportion of China's ethnic Korean citizens now reside in South Korea; As of 2009, there were 443,566 ethnic Koreans with Chinese citizenship residing in South Korea, making up 71% of all Chinese citizens in the country.[12] However, they receive less favourable treatment from the immigration office than ethnic Koreans from other countries, such as Korean Americans,[13] being typecast as "low-qualified laborers who can engage in simple work for low pay".[3] Huang Youfu, a professor at the Minzu University of China and himself an ethnic Korean, as well as Scott Snyder of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, note that joseonjok who have worked in South Korea often develop poor feelings towards South Korea, due to the mistreatment they experience there; Huang believes their writing about their negative experiences on the internet has been a major factor in the spread of anti-Korean sentiment in China.[14][15]

There are 53,000 Chaoxianzu Koreans in Japan (approximately 33% of them are under student visas) as of 2011.[16]


Most ethnic Koreans in China speak [2] Most Chinese of Korean descent have ancestral roots and family ties in the Hamgyong region of North Korea, and speak the Hamgyŏng dialect of Korean according to North Korean conventions.[8] However, since South Korea has been more prolific in exporting its entertainment culture, more Korean Chinese broadcasters have been using Seoul dialect. The so-called Korean wave (Hallyu) has also influenced fashion styles and increased the popularity of plastic surgery.[3]

Most of the ethnic Koreans in China are Buddhists,[2] but there is also a large proportion following Christianity, and using Korean language to do the mass.[17]

In recent years, there have been various cases of "international marriage" between ethnic Koreans from China hailing from the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture marrying South Korean men.[18] This trend has been argued by some as having resulted in an acceleration of the reduction of fertility among the Korean population in China.[18]


Chinese people of Korean descent are comfortable regarding themselves as part of the Chinese nation and see no contradiction between their Korean ethnicity and Chinese nationality.[19] However, this dual identity has come into conflict with the Korean ethnic nationalism of South Koreans. In a 2002 poll of 393 South Korean and Korean Chinese university students by Im Gyesun, 86 percent of Korean Chinese answered that they would reject Korean citizenship and would support China in a soccer game between China and South Korea. South Koreans expressed frustration and confusion at the Chaoxianzu's conception of China, rather than Korea, as their joguk (Hangul: 조국; hanja: 祖國, motherland).[3] Yet Korean cultural identity has been strengthened in China since the 1990s, and the Chaoxianzu are "at the forefront of insisting on the use of their own language in the education system".[20] Despite the Chaoxianzu's strong assertion of their cultural identity in recent years, the Chaoxianzu are relatively free of tensions with the majority Han Chinese and harbor no secessionist aspirations. Reasons that have been put forth for this harmony include the destitution of North Korea, a shared Confucianism, and a lack of a religious cleavage between the Koreans and the Han.[21]

Although Chaoxianzu's intermarriage with other ethnic groups was rare in the past, it is increasing nowadays.[22] Li Dexiu (李德洙), the ethnic Korean head of the Ethnic Affairs Commission, has publicly mused a change of China's official ethnic policy from one that respected differences to one that encouraged assimilation.[23] Despite such a situation, Chaoxianzu people often see a common cultural heritage between them and the Koreans in the Korean Peninsula but view themselves separately as one of the Chinese minorities. Common Korean culture such as Korean food, Korean dance, and Hanbok are often explained as part of the many minority Chinese cultures by the Chaoxianzu.[24] Furthermore, some Chaoxianzu scholars were involved in advocating a more pro-Chinese view of the Goguryeo controversies over ancient Sino-Korean history, which has been a cause of diplomatic protest between the Chinese and South Korean governments.[25] Aside from that, some Chaoxianzu students studying in Korea were accused of violence towards South Korean demonstrators who were conducting anti-PRC protests at the 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay.[26] In South Korea, Chaoxianzu living as migrant workers are sometimes viewed with distrust, and are perceived by South Korean nationals as criminals.[27] Such sentiments have refreshened in 2012 following a murder case in Suwon, Gyeonggi-do[28][29][30] perpetrated by an ethnic Korean of Chinese origin.[31][32][33][34] The South Korean government gives some legal acknowledgments to overseas Koreans despite their citizenship.

North Koreans

China has a large number of North Korean refugees, estimated at anywhere in between 20,000 and 400,000 as of 2006. Some North Korean refugees who are unable to obtain transport to South Korea instead marry chaoxianzu and settle down in China, blending into the community; however, they are still subject to deportation if discovered by the authorities.[35]

As of 2011, there are an estimated four to five thousand North Koreans residing as legal resident aliens in China. An increasing number are applying for naturalisation as Chinese citizens; however, this requires a certificate of loss of North Korean nationality, which North Korean authorities have recently become more reluctant to issue.[36] Major North Korean universities, such as the Kim Il-sung University and the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies also send a few dozen exchange students to Peking University and other top-ranked Chinese universities each year.[37]

In June 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that Beijing and Pyongyang had signed an agreement to grant as many as 40,000 industrial trainee visas to North Koreans to permit them to work in China, and that the first batch of workers had already arrived earlier in the year in the city of Tumen in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture.[38]

South Koreans

After the 1992 normalisation of diplomatic relations between China and South Korea, many citizens of South Korea started to settle in China. Large new communities of South Koreans have formed in Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and Qingdao.[39] The South Korean government officially recognises seven Korean international schools in China, located in Yanbian, Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Yantai, Qingdao, and Dalian, all founded between 1997 and 2003.[40] Most of the population of Koreans in Hong Kong also consists of South Korea expatriates. Typically, they come to China as employees of South Korean corporations on short-term international assignments; when their assignments are completed, many prefer to stay on in China, using the contacts they have made to start their own consulting businesses or import/export firms. Other South Koreans also moved to China on their own after becoming unemployed during the 1997 financial crisis; they used funds they had saved up for retirement to open small restaurants or shops.[41] The low cost of living compared to Seoul, especially the cheap tuition at international schools teaching both English and Chinese, is another pull factor for South Korean migration to Mainland China.[39]

The number of South Koreans in China was estimated to be 300,000 to 400,000 as of 2006; at the 2006 rate of growth, their population had been expected to reach one million by 2008.[39] By 2007, the South Korean Embassy in Beijing stated their population had reached 700,000. However, due to the global economic downturn in 2008 and the depreciation of the Korean won, large numbers of those returned to South Korea. A Bloomberg News article initially stated the proportion as 20% (roughly 140,000 people).[42] Between 2008 and 2009, South Korean government figures show that the number of Koreans in China dropped by 433,000.[1] The Sixth National Population Census of the People's Republic of China reported 120,750 South Koreans in Mainland China, the largest single foreign group.[43]

Notable people

Historical figures

Contemporary Chaoxianzu/Joseonjok

Expatriates of other nationalities and their descendants

  • Timmy Hung, Hong Kong Chinese actor, son of martial arts superstar Sammo Hung
  • Kwon Ki-ok, first female pilot in China
  • Pak Cholsu (박철수), head representative of the North Korean government-run company, Taep'oong International Investment Group of Korea (조선대풍국제투자그룹)[46][47]
  • Eunice Yoon, Korean-American reporter based in Beijing

See also



  1. ^ a b c 재외동포현황 Current Status of Overseas Compatriots, South Korea: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2009, retrieved 2009-05-21 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Korean Ethnic Group",, 2005-06-21, retrieved 2009-02-06 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Kim, Hyejin (2010). International Ethnic Networks and Intra-Ethnic Conflict: Koreans in China. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 42, 47–48, 50, 58. 
  4. ^ On Qing Government's Land Policy towards Chaoxian Reclamation People of Break Probibition
  5. ^ 论清朝对图们江以北朝鲜垦民的“薙发易服”政策
  6. ^ Kim 2003
  7. ^ a b Korea & World Affairs. Research Center for Peace and Unification. 1989. p. 509. 
  8. ^ a b  
  9. ^ Yi, Kwang-gyu (2000). Overseas Koreans. Jimoondang. p. 53. 
  10. ^ Chan, Kwok-bun; Ku, Agnes; Chu, Yin-wah (2009). Social Stratification in Chinese Societies.  
  11. ^ Shih, Chi-yu; Shi, Zhiyu (2007). Autonomy, Ethnicity, and Poverty in Southwestern China: The State Turned Upside Down.  
  12. ^ "More Than 1 Million Foreigners Live in Korea", Chosun Ilbo, 2009-08-06, retrieved 2009-10-18 
  13. ^ Seol & Skrentny 2009, p. 147
  14. ^ Lee, Sunny (2008-03-09), "Anti-Korean Sentiment in China Evolutionary", Korea Times, retrieved 2009-01-07 
  15. ^ Snyder 2008, p. 5
  16. ^ Yoo (유), Shin-jae (신재) (2011-11-18). "한국은 싫다"…젊은 유학생들 ‘건배! 재팬 드림’. The Hankyoreh (in Korean). Retrieved 2011-11-19. 
  17. ^ Analyzing of the music culture of the Lord's Day mass in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture
  18. ^ a b Melody Lu, Wen-Shan Yang (2009). Lu, Melody; Yang, Wen-Shan, eds. Asian cross-border marriage migration: demographic patterns and social issues. Volume 2 of IIAS publications series: Edited volumes (illustrated ed.). Amsterdam University Press. p. 152.  
  19. ^ JOINS | 아시아 첫 인터넷 신문
  20. ^ Um, Hae-Kyung (2006). Diasporas and Interculturalism in Asian Performing Arts: Translating Traditions.  
  21. ^  
  22. ^
  23. ^ "西藏局势仍为西方媒体关注焦点".  
  24. ^ NO.1 뉴미디어 마이데일리
  25. ^ 국내학자들 “조선족 학자 앞세워 충격적” - 조선닷컴
  26. ^ °ćÇâ´ĺÄÄ |
  27. ^ 10 April 2012, Incompetent Police Fail to Prevent Horrific Murder of Woman, KoreaBANG
  28. ^ 2012-04-05, 성폭행 신고에 “누가, 누가 그러는 거예요?” 답답한 질문만, Nate
  29. ^ 2012-04-09, 수원 20대 토막살인사건 '계획된 범죄'..CCTV 확인, Nate
  30. ^ 2012-04-09, 중국동포, 백주대낮에 60대 살해…이번에도 초기 검거 실패, Nate
  31. ^ 뉴시스, 2012-04-24, '왜 술 못마시게 하냐'…편의점종업원 흉기로 찌른 조선족, Nate
  32. ^ 2012.04.20, "조선족, 같은 민족 아냐" 선 긋는 한국인들, Daum
  33. ^ 23 April 2012, Journalist Defends Chinese-Koreans, Netizens React Negatively, KoreaBANG
  34. ^ 25 April 2012, Anti Chinese-Korean Sentiment on Rise in Wake of Fresh Attack, KoreaBANG
  35. ^ Haggard 2006
  36. ^ "More N.Koreans Apply for Chinese Citizenship", Chosun Ilbo, 2011-01-07, retrieved 2011-01-17 
  37. ^ "朝鲜"海龟"生活揭秘:大多留学北大等名校", Xinhua News, 2005-11-25, retrieved 2009-02-22 
  38. ^  
  39. ^ a b c "到了中国就不想回国 在华韩国人激增 (After arriving in China, they don't want to go home; number of South Koreans in China increasing sharply)", Wenhua Ribao, 2006-04-01, retrieved 2007-03-18 
  40. ^ Overseas Korean Educational Institutions, South Korea: National Institute for International Education Development, 2006, archived from the original on 2007-04-16, retrieved 2007-04-26 
  41. ^ Kim, Hyejin (2006-04-08), "South Koreans find the good life in China", Asia Times, retrieved 2007-03-18 
  42. ^ Kim, Kyoungwha (2009-01-09), "South Koreans Quit China as Yuan’s Gain Raises Cost of Living", Bloomberg, retrieved 2009-05-04 
  43. ^ "Major Figures on Residents from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan and Foreigners Covered by 2010 Population Census". National Bureau of Statistics of China. April 29, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2011. 
  44. ^ Routledge encyclopedia of philosophy - Google Books
  45. ^ Heroes Brought Buddhism to the East of the Sea: A Fully Annotated Translation of the Preface of Haedong Kosng Chn
  46. ^ Ahn (안), Yong-hyeon (용현); Lee Yong-su (이용수) (2010-01-27). 조선족 박철수, 北경제 구원투수 되나. Chosun Ilbo (in Korean). Retrieved 2011-06-04. .... 조선족 사업가인 박철수를 임명했다. (.... appointed the Joseonjok businessman, Pak Cholsu) 
  47. ^ 연합뉴스 : 바른언론 빠른뉴스


  • Haggard, Stephen (December 2006), The North Korean Refugee Crisis: Human Rights and International Response (PDF), U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, archived from the original on 2007-03-03, retrieved 2007-01-16 
  • Kim, Si-joong (2003), "The Economic Status and Role of Ethnic Koreans in China", The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy (PDF), Institute for International Economics, pp. 101–131 
  • Zhang, Tianlu (March 2004), 中国少数民族人口问题研究 (Research on the topic of Chinese minority ethnic group populations), National Population and Family Planning Commission of China, archived from the original on 2006-11-17, retrieved 2007-01-16 
  • Snyder, Scott (2008), "China-Korea Relations: Post-Olympic Hangover: New Backdrop for Relations", Comparative Connections 10 (3) 
  • Seol, Dong-Hoon; Skrentny, John D. (2009), "Ethnic return migration and hierarchical nationhood", Ethnicities 9 (2): 147–174,  

External links

  • Koreans in China Online Community - Moyiza! Japan
  • 环球阿里郎 Arirang World
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