Rise in Inward Migration Changes Republic of Korea Dynamics, IOM Study Finds


Republic of Korea - A new study of migration in Korea, undertaken by IOM’s Seoul based Migration Research and Training Centre (MRTC) and the Korean government shines new light on the Republic of Korea’s transition from being a country of emigration to a net migrant receiving country.

Over the past 20 years, the immigration of foreigners into the Republic of Korea has increased at a rapid pace, while emigration of Korean nationals has declined substantially, notes the “Migration Profile of the Republic of Korea”, coproduced by IOM, government and civil society.

As  of  2012,  more  than  1.4  million  foreigners  reside  in  Korea,  representing a thirty-fold increase from the 1990 figure.

Responding to this rapid change, the government of Korea in recent years has amended and adopted laws and a regulation related to immigration, and has introduced new policies to facilitate the integration of migrants into Korean society. The evolving migration landscape in Korea and the development of new immigration policies have had a significant impact on Korean society.

In this context, it is both highly relevant and timely to take stock of recent trends in migration and migration-related policies for Korea, and to use that perspective to inform policies that anticipate and prepare for potential future challenges, notes the IOM study.

The Profile also examines the demographic, socioeconomic, cultural and historic context of migration in Korea. It reviews the national institutional and policy framework governing migration, and highlights recent regional and international cooperation efforts undertaken by the Korean government.

The Profile explains the growth in foreign residents, noting that the Korean government has continued to embrace foreign workers as a way to cope with some of the effects of a low birth-rate and aging population, particularly the shortage of labour force in some industrial sectors.

International marriage has become more common, the government and universities attracted higher numbers of foreign international students as a result of their internationalization and globalization strategies, and some overseas Koreans immigrated back to their developed home country, which all resulted in a continued rise in the number of foreign residents in Korea.

With the increased level of immigration into Korea, the Korean sentiment regarding foreigners has changed. Until the last century, the majority of Koreans took pride in the fact that they were the citizens of a single-race homogenous nation, but now the public opinion in the Korean society is to overcome the myth of a single-race nation and to realize a mature multicultural society.

“Korea cannot but continue to accept immigrants into the country, and a social consensus that foreign residents should be embraced as members of society is being developed”, concludes the Profile.

For more information please contact

June Lee
Chief of Mission in Seoul
Email: jlee@iom.int


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