E.g., 04/25/2017
E.g., 04/25/2017

Country Resource - South Korea

South Korea

KR
  • Population......................................................................50,924,172 (July 2016 est.)
  • Population growth rate ................................................................0.53% (2016 est.)
  • Birth rate.....................................................8.4 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)
  • Death rate................................................5.8 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)
  • Net migration rate...............................2.6 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)
  • Ethnic groups....................................................................................homogeneous

CIA World Factbook

Faced with labor shortages in key sectors of the economy, South Korea has moved carefully in recent decades toward accepting greater numbers of workers—albeit in temporary fashion. Its Employment Permit System, launched in 2003, earned international accolades for bringing order and legality to immigration in the country, although several challenges remain to be addressed as this Country Profile explores.

Recent Activity

Faced with labor shortages in key sectors of the economy, South Korea has moved carefully in recent decades toward accepting greater numbers of workers—albeit in temporary fashion. Its Employment Permit System, launched in 2003, earned international accolades for bringing order and legality to immigration in the country, although several challenges remain to be addressed as this Country Profile explores.

Approximately 1 million Korean immigrants (overwhelmingly from South Korea) lived in the United States in 2015, representing 2.4 percent of the U.S. immigrant population. While earlier waves consisted largely of unskilled laborers and their families, contemporary Korean immigration boasts high socioeconomic standing and Koreans are generally considered among the most successful immigrant groups.

With many countries in East Asia facing unfavorable demographic shifts in the form of aging populations, low fertility, and shrinking workforces, governments in 2016 continued to explore immigration as a potential policy solution. However, a tradition of cultural homogeneity and wariness among publics about increased immigration is leading policymakers to test the waters with very small steps.

Sensitive to having too many outsiders, prosperous Asian countries generally have relied on temporary worker programs — with few rights for migrants — to fill gaps in their labor markets. With its historically diverse population, Singapore is the main exception as it sees migrants as a demographic necessity and courts highly skilled migrants.

Young-bum Park of Hansung University outlines South Korea's response to temporary labor demands and its approach to integrating North Korean refugees.

Tsuneo Akaha of the Monterey Institute of International Studies looks at emerging migration patterns in North Korea, China, Russia, and Japan.
Books
July 2013

This edited volume develops a pragmatic approach to the engagement of highly skilled members of the diaspora for the benefit of their countries of origin. The book, edited by a World Bank senior economist, is based on empirical work in middle-income and high-income economies.