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Koreans in the United Kingdom

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Koreans in the United Kingdom

Koreans in the United Kingdom
한국계 영국인
Total population
Korean-born residents
12,310 (2001 Census, South Korea)
22 (2001 Census, North Korea)
Other population estimates
46,829 (MFAT 2009 estimate, South Korea)
Regions with significant populations
London and the South East
English, Korean
majority Protestant Christian,[1] minority Buddhist[2]

Koreans in the United Kingdom include Korean-born migrants to the United Kingdom and their British-born descendants.


Population size

The 2001 UK Census recorded 12,310 British residents born in South Korea.[3] The 2011 report of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade showed 45,295 South Korean citizens or former citizens (regardless of birthplace) registered as living in the U.K.[fn 1][4] This means that Koreans in the United Kingdom are the 12th-largest group of overseas Koreans, behind Korean Brazilians and ahead of Koreans in Indonesia.[4] According to the Overseas Korean Foundation, between 1999 and 2005, the U.K.'s Korean population nearly quadrupled from 10,836, surpassing the older community of Koreans in Germany to become the largest in Europe.[5] Among those recorded in MOFAT's statistics, 3,839 were British citizens, 9,170 had indefinite leave to remain, 19,000 were international students, and the other 14,820 had other kinds of visas. About two-thirds resided in the London area.[4]

Most come from South Korea; however, the number of North Korean defectors is also rising. North Koreans form the ninth-largest national group of asylum seekers, with a total of 850 applicants, including 245 applications in the first seven months of 2008 alone, thirteen times the number in all of 2007. The U.K. grants asylum only to defectors who come directly from North Korea; in particular, 180 asylum seekers have had their applications rejected after police checks revealed that they had previously resided in South Korea (and thus had residency rights and citizenship there, in accordance with the South Korean constitution).[6] Some of the alleged North Korean defectors may also be ethnic Koreans from China who purchased North Korean documents so that they could attempt to gain refugee status in developed countries. Efforts by the UK Border Agency to identify fake defectors have not always been successful and have also been known to misclassify actual defectors as fake ones.[7]

Population distribution

Large numbers of Koreans began to settle in the U.K. in the 1980s, mostly near London; the highest concentration can be found in the town of New Malden, where estimates of the Korean population range from 8,000 to as high as 20,000 people.[1][8][9] Factors which may have attracted them to New Malden include cheap housing, the previous presence of a Japanese community in the area, and the "bandwagon effect" of a few prominent Korean businesses in the area early on.[1] In the 1990s, the area came to prominence as a hub for the Korean community; the high concentration of Koreans there meant that adult immigrants, especially women, tend not to speak much English, even after years of residence in the United Kingdom.[10] During the 2002 FIFA World Cup, Koreans from all over the country flocked to the town to gather with their co-ethnics and show support for the Korea Republic national football team.[11][12]

Other areas with a Korean presence include Golders Green, where Korean and Japanese immigrants have been visibly replacing the older, diminishing Jewish community.[13]


21% of all Korean-owned businesses in the U.K. are located in the New Malden area.[14] The first Korean restaurant in New Malden was established in 1991.[8] Other Korean businesses in the area include hairdressers, stationery shops, travel agents, and Korean-language child care services; there used to be a bookstore selling imported Korean novels, but it closed down. Two rival Korean-language newspapers are also published there.[10] Korean grocers do good business, as Korean food products, unlike those from India or Japan, tend to be unavailable from mainstream retailers such as Tesco.[15]

Korean business owners' unfamiliarity with commercial practices in the U.K., along with language barriers, have sometimes led them into conflict with governmental regulators; the Health and Safety Executive noted that Korean barbecue restaurants are especially problematic in this regard, as they often imported small, uncertified table-top gas cookers directly from South Korea for self-installation, rather than hiring a registered gas engineer to install and inspect them, and took no corrective action when issued with warnings.[9] The language barrier is compounded by the lack of translators; one Korean translator estimated that she had only four or five competitors in the entire country.[10]


As among Korean Americans, Protestant churches have played an important social and cultural role in the Korean immigrant community in the U.K.; they hold religious functions solely in Korean, a practice which contrasts sharply with that in Korean American churches, which often conduct youth group services and activities in English language; this has aided in preventing the attrition of Korean language abilities among locally born Korean youth.[1] Denominations with Korean-language services in New Malden include the Church of England and the Methodist Church.[10] A smaller number of Koreans in the U.K. observe Buddhism.[2]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ All South Korean citizens intending to reside overseas for more than 90 days are required by law to register with the South Korean consulate nearest their overseas residence. Failure to register can have negative consequences for taxes and real estate purchases, and overseas-born children who are not registered may have difficulty enrolling in South Korean schools. See 재외국민등록/Registration of nationals overseas, South Korea: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2009, retrieved 2009-11-09 


  1. ^ a b c d Yi, David (19 July 2008), "Livin' in London",  
  2. ^ a b Korean Buddhist congregations in the U.K.
  3. ^ "Country-of-birth database".  
  4. ^ a b c 《재외동포 본문(지역별 상세)》, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2011-07-15, p. 244, retrieved 2012-02-25 
  5. ^ 재외동포현황 - 유럽 (Status of overseas compatriots - Europe), Overseas Korean Foundation, 2005, retrieved 2008-09-10 
  6. ^ Jang, Yong-hun (25 July 2008), "英, 한국 국적 탈북자 추방 방침: RFA (U.K. North Korean refugees with South Korean nationality to be expelled: Radio Free Asia)", Yonhap News, retrieved 2008-09-10 
  7. ^ Choi, Lyong (2011-10-26), "The British dilemma of North Korean refugees", LSE Ideas, retrieved 2012-08-28 
  8. ^ a b Benedictus, Leo (21 January 2005), This restaurant is a little bit of Korea brought into a very English town': Koreans in New Malden"'",  
  9. ^ a b Marlow, Peter (2006), Occupational Health and Safety Factors in the Korean Community (PDF), United Kingdom:  
  10. ^ a b c d Moore, Fiona; Lowe, Sid; Hwang, Ki-Soon (11 July 2007), "The Translator as Gatekeeper in the Korean Business Community in London", Critical Management Studies Conference (PDF), University of Manchester, retrieved 2008-09-10 
  11. ^ Shaikh, Thair (22 June 2002), "Surrey town plays host to World Cup fever", The Daily Telegraph (London), retrieved 2008-09-10 
  12. ^ Geoghegan, Tim (25 June 2002), "Life and Seoul in Surrey", BBC News, retrieved 2008-09-10 
  13. ^ Russ, Willey (October 16, 2006), "Golders Green", Chambers London Gazetteer, Chambers Harrap, pp. 194, 340–343,  
  14. ^ Hall, Sarah (25 June 2002), "With heart and soul in the Seoul of Surrey", The Guardian (London), retrieved 2008-09-10 
  15. ^ "영국 뉴몰든 한인 유통의 최강자 '코리아 푸드를 가다' (Strongman of Korean logistics in New Malden: "Go for Korean food")",  
  16. ^ Michael, Christopher (2008-04-09), "From despot’s PR man to Surrey salesman", The Spectator, retrieved 2009-09-01 
  17. ^ The London Gazette Supplement 60895 page b27, 2014-06-14 

Further reading

External links

  • Korean Festival, the largest Korean cultural festival in Europe
  • Korean Food in London
  • British Korean Society (formerly the Anglo-Korean Society)
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