Historical and Contemporary Korean Emigration: a Comparative Analysis of Ten Waves of Korean Migration

  • Shawn ShenEmail author


Migration trends and patterns often reflect a country’s social relations at home and abroad. At the risk of overgeneralization, ten waves of Korean emigration with historical significance have been identified and organized in chronological order from the 1860s to 2010s for comparison, including the emigrant identities, settlement regions, emigration motivations, and migration classifications. While the temporal and spatial context of migration decisions varies, each wave has demonstrated how the Korean migrants respond to the internal and international political-economic environments as a survival strategy. Korean emigrants’ social class, the choice of destinations, the length of sojourn, and the nature of migration are all further diversified from historical to contemporary emigration. Korean settlement experiences with country-specific details in regions of significant Korean emigrant dominance are further investigated. The new concept of “liquid migration,” with flexibility, fluidity and hybridity, is also increasingly evident in the shifting patterns and trends of contemporary Korean emigration.


Korea Migration Emigration Settlement Korean diasporas 



This work was supported by the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016S1A5B8924268).


  1. Bygnes, S., & Erdal, M. B. (2017). Liquid migration, grounded lives: considerations about future mobility and settlement among Polish and Spanish migrants in Norway. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 43(1), 102–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chang, R., & Patterson, W. (2003). The Koreans in Hawaii: a pictorial history (pp. 1903–2003). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  3. Cho, G. M. (2008). Haunting the Korean diaspora: shame, secrecy, and the forgotten war. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  4. Cho, J.-Y. (2015). Samsung made in Vietnam. Business Korea. January 28, 2015. Available at: Accessed 31 Jan 2016.
  5. Chosun Ilbo (2007). Five generations on, Mexico's Koreans long for home. Chosun Ilbo. August 16, 2007. Available at: Accessed 28 Feb 2015.
  6. Chosun I (2014). Koreans send fewer children abroad to study. Chosun Ilbo. April 4, 2014. Available at: Accessed 31 Jan 2016.
  7. Evans, S. J. (2014). More than 120 prostitutes who worked near US military base in South Korea are seeking compensation from country’s government after it ‘actively facilitated’ their work. Mailonline. November 28, 2014. Available at: Accessed 30 Jan 2015.
  8. Green, C. (2011). An anti-reform marriage of convenience. DailyNK. Available at: Accessed 28 May 2018.
  9. Gupye, P (1984) Germany guest workers. Archive. New York Times Magazine 100 (1), 88–91.Google Scholar
  10. Horton, P., & Saunders, J. (2012). The ‘East Asian’ Olympic games: what of sustainable legacies? The International Journal of the History of Sport, 29(6), 887–911.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Human Rights Watch (1991). ‘Punished peoples’ of the Soviet Union: the continuing legacy of Stalin’s deportations. New York: Human Rights Watch. Available at: Accessed 6 May 2018.
  12. KBS (2014). KBS world trend: 150 years of Korean diaspora in Russia. KBS World Radio. October 28, 2014. Available at: Accessed 30 Oct 2014.
  13. Kim, I. (1981). New urban immigrants: the Korean community in New York. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kim, J. G (1983) To god’s country: Canadian missionaries in Korea and the beginning of Korean migration to Canada. Ph.D. Diss., University of Toronto, 1983.Google Scholar
  15. Kim, H. S. (1998). Yanggongju as an allegory of the nation: The representation of working class women in popular and radical texts. In E. H. Kim & C. Choi (Eds.), Dangerous women: gender and Korean nationalism. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Kim, G. (2004). Deportation of 1937 as product of Russian and Soviet national policy. Available at: Accessed 30 May 2017.
  17. Kim, H. (2010). International ethnic networks and intra-ethnic conflict: Koreans in China. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  18. Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2016). 2015 current status of overseas compatriots, Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, February 4. 2016. Available at: Accessed 30 Jan 2016.
  19. Korea Times (2016). Nearly 8 out of 10 Koreans wish to emigrate. Korea Times, Seoul, February 22, 2016.Google Scholar
  20. Kwaak, J. (2013). More South Koreans choose China for education. World Street Journal. October 2, 2013. Available at: Accessed 26 Dec 2015.
  21. Kwon, H.-Y. (1996). The Koreans in the world: commonwealth of independent states. Seoul: Korean Ministry of National Unification.Google Scholar
  22. Kwon, T.-H. (1997). International migration of Koreans and the Korean community in China. Korea Journal of Population and Development, 26(1), 1–17.Google Scholar
  23. Lahusen, T. (2001). Harbin and Manchuria: place, space, and identity. Durham, Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Lee, J.-W. (2005). 3,100 Koreans in Sakhalin yearn to return home, Korea Times, February 18, 2005. Available at: .Accessed 8 March 2016.
  25. Lee, Y.-J., & Koo, H. (2006). Wild geese fathers’ and a globalised family strategy for education in Korea. International Development Planning Review, 28(4), 533–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lee, J. Y., Friesen, W., & Kearns, R. (2015). Return migration of 1.5 generation Korean new Zealanders: short-term and long-term motives. New Zealand Geographer, 71, 34–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marini Sr., V. E. (2010). Mail call a soldier's worst nightmare & recall the rest of my story: a memoir. Bloomington, Authorhouse.Google Scholar
  28. Nordheimer, J. (1975). Plantation decline in Hawaii spurs exodus. New York Times, 15.Google Scholar
  29. OECD Stat (2016). Employment: average annual hours worked per worker, OECD Stat. Available at: Accessed 8 March 2016.
  30. Park, J.-I. (1957). The study of Korean population in Japan (pp. 22–31). Tokyo: Shingui Gensha.Google Scholar
  31. Park, H.-J. (2006). Dijeron que iba a levantar el dinero con la pala: a brief account of early Korean emigration to Mexico. Revista d'Història Moderna i Contemporànea, 4, 137–150.Google Scholar
  32. Patterson, W. (1988). The Korean frontier in America: immigration to Hawaii (pp. 1896–1910). Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.Google Scholar
  33. Patterson, W. (2000) The Ilse: first generation Korean immigrants in Hawaii, 1903–1973. Honolulu: Hawai'i Studies on Korea. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.Google Scholar
  34. Otto, P. J. (1999). Ethnic cleansing in the USSR (pp. 1937–1949). Westport: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  35. Polian, P. (2004). Against their will: the history and geography of forced migrations in the USSR. Budapest: Central European University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Pyong, G. M. (1992). A comparison of the Korean minorities in China and Japan. International Migration Review, 26(1), 4–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Salitan, L. P. (1992). Politics and nationality in contemporary Soviet-Jewish emigration, 1968–89. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schönwälder, K. (2003). Why Germany's guest workers were largely Europeans: the selective principles of post-war labour recruitment policy. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 27(2), 248–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Schwenkel, C. (2014). Rethinking Asian mobilities: socialist migration and post-socialist repatriation of Vietnamese contract workers in East Germany. Critical Asian Studies, 46(2), 235–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Shen, S. (2017). The Bibimbap migration theory? Challenges of Korea’s multicultural mix and social integration development. Journal of International Migration and Integration, 18(3), 771–789.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sparling, E. (2009). Kyrgyzstan: ethnic minority expands ties to South Korea, Eurasia Net. October 22, 2009. Available at: Accessed 30 Oct 2015.
  42. Takaki, R. (1983). Pau Hana: plantation life and labor in Hawaii, 1835–1920. Honolulu: Hawaii: University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Thomas, V. (2013). Koreans have made it in Germany: 50 years of the Korean-German labour recruitment agreement. Migration and Integration. Goethe-Institute. May 2013. Available at: Accessed 30 May 2018.
  44. Ullah, A. A. (2014). How international is international? A study on international marriage migration in Asia. In J. Zhang, & Duncan, H. (Eds.) Migration in China and Asia. International Perspectives on Migration, 10, 113–130.Google Scholar
  45. Yoon, I.-J. (2006). Understanding the Korean diaspora from comparative perspectives, Transformation & prospect toward multiethnic, multiracial & multicultural society: enhancing intercultural communication. Asia Culture Forum 2006. Available at: Accessed 22 Feb 2016.
  46. Yoon, I.-J. (2012). Migration and Korean diaspora: a comparative description of five cases. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 38(3), 413–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yuh, J. Y. (2002). Beyond the shadow of Camptown: Korean military brides in America. New York: New York University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Multicultural Studies CenterCatholic University of DaeguGyeongsanRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Department of Geography Education, College of EducationCatholic University of DaeguGyeongsan SiRepublic of Korea

Personalised recommendations