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Gaga: Rest in Peace (b.2002 - d.2010)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Foreigners in South Korea (December, 2010)

Source: Ministry of Justice (South Korea)
Note: The Data is collected by the immigration office on 31 of every December.

While talking about monoethicity (both North and South)in Korea in my last post, I thought I should breakdown the new multicultral/ethnic/ racial categories by giving some figures and estimates issued by the government of South Korea which shows the current status and number of foreigners in South Korea. Multicultralism is one of the major discourses at all levels here, whether it be economical, political, social or cultural.

Number of foreigners have increased manifold. In 1988, total number of foreigners was about 6,500 which according to the last years estimates has reached over 1.2 million people ( the table only shows the legally registered foreigners), it is important to note that the number of "illegal" ( I prefer to call them unauthorized stayers) foreigneres (offical term used in ROK) is 30% of the total number of foreigners in the country. This figure is NOT huge if we compare it with the traditional immigration countries such as the US, Canada, and Australia but in terms of percentage it says a lot about how dynamics of globalization are bringing changes slowly but surely in a country with 'close immigration policy'..

As a Pakistani, I thought I must highlight Pakistan and its fair share in Korea's foreign population. Pakistan ranks at number 15 - with the highest number of citizens. How come we have so many Pakistanies in Korea?? This has to be dealth with in a number of posts back to back - but basically Pakistanies discovered Korea through Seoul Olympics in 1988. At the time, Korea had a 'visa free entry' - which led many to come and explore opportunities from around the world. Back in the days, during Kim Young-sam's government under the slogan of Segyehwa (globalization) movement - Korea opened itself. This was also the year when Korea's economy actually took off.....its GDP increased and it took a twist - from a labor exporting country it became a labor importing country and started to suffer labor shortages in manufecturing, agriculture, construction, fisheries and livestock in SMEs.
Hence Pakistanies (besides other countries)started to move in and found jobs in these small and medium size enterprizes (SMEs) - that are famous for their 3-D work (dirty, difficult and dangerous) and where the natives have shunned working.

Total No. Of Pakistanies in South Korea as of 31 Dec. 2010 = 5,717 people
Legal Sojourn = 4,573 people
Illegal Sojourn between ages (16-60) = 1,135 people
Total No. of Illegal Stayers from Pakistan = 1,144 people.

It is interesting to note that Chinese (including the Korean diaspora in China) makes up 75% of all the foreigners in Korea.

Top five countries ( according to the Ministry of Justice, South Korea) in terms of the presence of their nationals are:
1- China
2- USA
3- Vietnam
4- Japan
5- Philippines

Pakistanies also come on yearly basis through 'Employment Permit Program'(EPS) - under this program, 15 countries including Pakistan send their workers to Korea in different sectors. The quota of workers varies w.r.t to labor stratification.
Total number of years a worker can stay here is 4 years and 10 months. More information on employment in Korea within EPS category can be found on the portal below:



  1. very informative ! Thanks lady .

  2. Hi Sarah! This is Michel. Nice running into you here. Doing research and stumbled across your blog. ^_^

  3. Japan has around 2 million foreigners in the country but has been open to the world a much longer time.

    Korea has 1.2 million foreigners in the country and it's much smaller and only recently opened up.

    How can this be? I thought Korea was a rather unexplored country to people in the west and that Japan was much more popular?

  4. Well, globalization has changed all dynamics.
    Japan is much researched and is visted more than Korea however, after Seoul Olympics in 1988 - called the official opening up of Korea to the world - led to mass migrations both long and short term.

    Korea export labors, has a fare share of foreign brides, language instructors, foreign students etc. ... this lead to a much faster and higher concentration of foreigners overs he years.

  5. Salaam Sarah Didi :)
    I am so happy I came across your blog!! :)
    I am planning to come to Korea and i was skeptical about halal food and all but your blog is like a saviour!! There is so much to do and learn in Itaewon from your blog. It seems like a really nice place to visit ;)

  6. Salaam Sharmila,
    Thanks for ur comments , it means a lot. hey, follow the blog so that you keep getting updates and if u have questions do NOT hesitate to ask.