Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The number of foreigners in Korea

It can be difficult to discern foreign population statistics because the figures released by KIS in previous years listed only documented foreigners residing in Korea for over 90 days. Thus short term visits or tourists (B and C series visas) were not included; nor were undocumented migrant workers. The media announcements in mid 2007 declaring that Korea had passed 1,000,000 foreign residents were in fact incorrect, though that link does point out that it's more than residents:
The number of foreign residents in Korea surpassed one million as of last Friday, the Ministry of Justice said. There are 1,000,254 foreigners in Korea including illegal residents, long term residents and those staying for less than 90 days, the ministry said.
The 'One Million' figure was certainly bandied about in the media and used to justify calling Korea a 'multicultural society'.

As of the end of 2008, there were 1,158,866 foreigners in Korea, but only 854,007 were considered people staying over 90 days (compared to 40,519 in 1980 [link] 536,627 in 2006 and 722,686 at the end of May 2007 [link]). Since the number of even E-2 visa holders was lower under the resident statistics, it suggests that even those who are on long term visas but who haven't yet passed the 90 day mark are not considered residents as such (or at least that seems to be the logical conclusion - unless 'residency' is connected with receiving one's alien registration card). It seems likely that the number of 90 day+ residents may exceed one million this year.

Here's what I've been able to compile so far (KIS statistics prior to 2007 list only legal residents, and aren't included).

1990 100,000 [link]
1995 269,000 [link]
1997 386,972 [link]
2000.08 478,435 [link]
2000.10 500,591 [link]
2001.10 546,000 [link]

2007.08 1,000,254 [link]
2008.12 1,158,866 [link]

There's a bit of a gap between 2001 and 2007. Does anyone else have statistics for that time period?

A list of legal and illegal migrant workers over the years can be found here, for comparison.


King Baeksu said...

Don't forget that over half are Chinese, and a fair share of them Choson-jok (too lazy to do a proper search, but possibly 40% or so).

It's often been noted that the word "oegugin," and by extension the word "Korean," can extend beyond the national borders here, which is why Koreans often refer to non-Koreans abroad as "foreigners." And yet they conveniently label the several hundred thousand Choson-jok here as "foreigners."

Interesting, eh?

kushibo said...

It's only interesting if the two theys are the same they.

Anonymous said...

matt - how about an email to the Seoul Global Center?

also consider the IOM

Either might be able to put you in contact with a national or regional expert with the data you seek...

Breda said...

Does anyone know where I could find the number of E2 visa holders?

matt said...

As noted here, there were 19,771 E-2 visa holders at the end of 2008 (keep in mind some 1200 E-2 visa holders teach Chinese or Japanese). According to an article quoted here, there were 21,498 E-2ers here as of the end of July.