한국인 (韓國人)
조선인 (朝鮮人)
Total population
c. 85 million[1]
Map of the Korean Diaspora in the World.svg
Regions with significant populations
 South Korea       51,709,098[2]
 North Korea      25,778,815[3]
Diaspora as of 2019
c. 7.5 million[4]
 United States2,546,982[4]
 United Kingdom40,770[4]
 New Zealand38,114[4]
 Hong Kong22,506[4]
 United Arab Emirates10,930[4]
Korean,[5] Korean Sign Language
Majority: Irreligious
Minorities: Christianity (predominantly Protestantism, also Catholics), Korean Buddhism, Korean Confucianism, Korean Shamanism, Cheondoism[6][7]

Koreans (South Korean: 한민족/한국인/한국사람, 韓民族/韓國人/韓國사람, Han minjok/ethnic, Hanguk in (Han nation people), Hanguksaram, North Korean: 조선민족/조선인/조선사람, 朝鮮民族/朝鮮人/朝鮮사람, Joseon minjok/ethnic, Joseon in (people)/Joseonsaram, lit.'Korean race'; see names of Korea) are an East Asian ethnic group native to Korea and southern Manchuria.[10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

Koreans mainly live in the two Korean states: North Korea and South Korea (collectively and simply referred to as just Korea). Koreans are considered the fifteenth-largest ethnic group in the world. They are also an officially recognized ethnic minority in other Asian countries; such as China, Japan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Koreans also form sizeable communities in Europe, specifically in Russia, Germany, United Kingdom, and France. Over the course of the 20th century, Korean communities have also formed in the Americas (especially in the United States and Canada) and Oceania.

As of 2020, there were an estimated 7.5 million ethnic Koreans residing outside Korea.[4]


See also: Names of Korea

South Koreans refer to themselves as Hanguk-in (Korean: 한국인, Hanja: 韓國人) or Hanguk-saram (Korean: 한국 사람), both of which mean "people of the (Sam)han state." When including members of the Korean diaspora, Koreans often use the term Han-in (Korean한인; Hanja韓人, lit.'(Sam)han people'). Korean Americans refer to themselves as Hangukgye-Migukin (Korean: 한국계 미국인, Hanja: 韓國系美國人).

North Koreans refer to themselves as Joseon-in (Korean: 조선인, Hanja: 朝鮮人) or Joseon-saram (Korean: 조선 사람), both of which literally mean "Joseon people". The term is derived from the Joseon dynasty, a Korean kingdom founded by Yi Seonggye that lasted for approximately five centuries from 1392 to 1910. Using similar words, Koreans in China refer to themselves as Chaoxianzu (Chinese: 朝鲜族) in Chinese or Joseonjok, Joseonsaram (Korean: 조선족, 조선사람) in Korean, which are cognates that literally mean "Joseon ethnic group".[18][19] Koreans in Japan refer to themselves as Zainichi Chousenjin, Chousenjin (Japanese: 在日朝鮮人, 朝鮮人) in Japanese or Jaeil Joseonin, Joseonsaram, Joseonin (Korean재일조선인, 조선사람, 조선인) in Korean.

In the chorus of the South Korean national anthem, Koreans are referred to as Daehan-saram (Korean: 대한사람, lit.'Great (Sam)han people').

Ethnic Koreans living in Russia and Central Asia refer to themselves as Koryo-saram (Korean: 고려 사람; Cyrillic: Корё сарам), alluding to Goryeo, a Korean dynasty spanning from 918 to 1392.[citation needed]


Linguistic and archaeological studies

Modern Koreans are suggested to be the descendants of the ancient people from Manchuria who settled in the northern Korean Peninsula.[20][21][page needed][verification needed] Archaeological evidence suggests that proto-Koreans were migrants from Manchuria during the Bronze Age.[22] They have links with the Japanese people. According to most linguists and archaeologists with expertise in ancient Korea, the linguistic homeland of proto-Korean and of the early Koreans is located somewhere in Manchuria, particularly the Liao river. Later, Koreanic-speakers already present in northern Korea started to expand further south, replacing and assimilating Japonic-speakers and likely causing the Yayoi migration.[23][24] Whitman (2012) suggests that the Proto-Koreans arrived in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula at around 300 BCE and coexisted with the descendants of the Japonic Mumun cultivators (or assimilated them).[25] Vovin suggests Old Korean was established in southern Manchuria and northern Korean peninsula by the Three Kingdoms of Korea period, and migrated from there to southern Korea during this period by Goguryeo migrants.[26]

The largest concentration of dolmens in the world is found on the Korean Peninsula. In fact, with an estimated 35,000-100,000 dolmen,[27] Korea accounts for nearly 40% of the world's total. Similar dolmens can be found in Manchuria, the Shandong Peninsula and the Kyushu island, yet it is unclear why this culture only flourished so extensively on the Korean Peninsula and its surroundings compared to the bigger remainder of Northeastern Asia.


Stephen Pheasant (1986), who taught anatomy, biomechanics and ergonomics at the Royal Free Hospital and the University College, London, said that Far Eastern people have proportionately shorter lower limbs than Europeans and black Africans. Pheasant said that the proportionately short lower limbs of Far Eastern people is a difference that is most characterized in Japanese people, less characterized in Korean and Chinese people, and the least characterized in Vietnamese and Thai people.[28][29]

Neville Moray (2005) said that, for Korean and Japanese pilots, sitting height is more than 54% of their stature, with about 46% of their stature from leg length. Moray said that, for Americans and most Europeans, sitting height is about 52% of their stature, with about 48% of their stature from leg length.[30]


In a craniometric study, Pietrusewsky (1994) found that the Japanese series, which was a series that spanned from the Yayoi period to modern times, formed a single branch with Korea.[31] Later, Pietrusewsky (1999) found, however, that Korean and Yayoi people were very highly separated in the East Asian cluster, indicating that the connection that Japanese have with Korea would not have derived from Yayoi people.[31]

Park Dae-kyoon et al. (2001) said that distance analysis based on thirty-nine non-metric cranial traits showed that Koreans are closer craniometrically to Kazakhs and Mongols than Koreans are close craniometrically to the populations in China and Japan.[32]


Main article: Genetic history of East Asians

Koreans display high frequencies of the Y-DNA haplogroups O2-M122 (approximately 40% of all present-day Korean males) and O1b2-M176 (approximately 30%).[33] Several studies have confirmed that while the Koreans are generally considered a Northeast Asian group because of their geographical location, Korean populations have both a Northeast Asian and Southeast Asian genome.[34] Ancient genome comparisons revealed that the genetic makeup of Koreans can be best described as an admixture of the Neolithic Devil's Gate genome in Russia and the Iron Age Vat Komnou in Cambodia; with over 70% of Korean genetic diversity derived from southern sources.[35] Koreans are genetically closer to "southern Asians" (isolated indigenous groups of Vietnam and Taiwanese indigenous peoples) than "northern Asians" (such as Chukchi and Yakut).[36][37]

Studies of polymorphisms in the human Y-chromosome have so far produced evidence to suggest that the Korean people have a long history as a distinct, mostly endogamous ethnic group, with successive waves of people moving to the peninsula and two major Y-chromosome haplogroups.[38] Koreans also show a close genetic relationship with other modern East Asians such as the Han Chinese and Yamato Japanese[10][11] [39][40][41] and with Neolithic specimens recovered from Chertovy Vorota Cave in Primorsky Krai, who themselves are the closest genetic relatives to the Udege and the Hezhen. The Udege and Hezhen are descendents of the Mohe who formed part of the Goguryeo and Balhae kingdoms.[12] The reference population for Koreans used in Geno 2.0 Next Generation is 94% Eastern Asia and 5% Southeast Asia & Oceania.[42]

Genetic distance measurements from a large scale genetic study from 2021 titled 'Genomic insights into the formation of human populations in East Asia', Koreans are genetically closest to Northern Han and Japanese on FST genetic distance measurements. The same study also suggests that Koreans have a closer genetic affinity to Buryat Mongolians (northern Mongolians), compared to the Chinese and Japanese. This may be due to historical interactions between ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo and Balhae, which often incorporated Mongolic tribes such as the Daur and Tungusic-speaking ethnic groups, such as the Mohe who share similar origins as the Mongols.


Korea Foundation Associate Professor of History, Eugene Y. Park said that many Koreans seem to have a genealogical memory blackout before the twentieth century.[43][44] According to him the vast majority Koreans do not know their actual genealogical history. Through "inventing tradition" in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, families devised a kind of master narrative story that purports to explain a surname-ancestral seat combination's history to the extent where it is next to impossible to look beyond these master narrative stories.[45] He gave an example of what "inventing tradition" was like from his own family's genealogy where a document from 1873 recorded three children in a particular family and a later 1920 document recorded an extra son in that same family.[46] Park said that these master narratives connect the same surname and ancestral seat to a single, common ancestor. This trend became universal in the nineteenth century, but genealogies which were published in the seventeenth century actually admit that they did not know how the different lines of the same surname or ancestral seat are related at all.[47] Only a small percentage of Koreans had surnames and ancestral seats to begin with, and that the rest of the Korean population had adopted these surname and ancestral seat identities within the last two to three hundred years.[48]


Main articles: Culture of Korea, Culture of North Korea, and Culture of South Korea

North Korea and South Korea share a common heritage, but the political division since 1945 has resulted in some divergence of their modern cultures.[citation needed]


Main articles: Korean language and Hangul

The language of the Korean people is the Korean language, which uses Hangul as its main writing system. Daily usage of Hanja has been phased out in Korean peninsula other than usage by selected South Korean media companies (mostly conservative) when referring to key politicians (e.g. current and former Presidents, leaders of major political parties) or handful of countries (e.g. China, Japan, US, UK) as an abbreviation. Otherwise, Hanja is exclusively used for academic, historical and religious purposes. Roman alphabet is the de facto secondary writing system in South Korea especially for loan words and is widely used in day-to-day and official communication. There are more than 78 million speakers of the Korean language worldwide.[49]


Traditional Korean royal wedding ceremony with the male royal wearing royal costume
Traditional Korean royal wedding ceremony with the male royal wearing royal costume

Main articles: Korean diaspora and Demographics of South Korea

Large-scale emigration from Korea began as early as the mid-1860s, mainly into the Russian Far East and Northeast China or what was historically known as Manchuria; these populations would later grow to more than two million Koreans in China and several hundred thousand Koryo-saram (ethnic Koreans in Central Asia and the former USSR).[50][51] During the Korea under Japanese rule of 1910–1945, Koreans were often recruited and or forced into labour service to work in mainland Japan, Karafuto Prefecture (Sakhalin), and Manchukuo; the ones who chose to remain in Japan at the end of the war became known as Zainichi Koreans, while the roughly 40,000 Koreans who were trapped in Karafuto after the Soviet invasion are typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans.[52][53]

South Korea

In June 2012, South Korea's population reached 50 million[54] and by the end of 2016, South Korea's population has surpassed 51 million people.[55] Since the 2000s, South Korea has been struggling with a low birthrate, leading some researchers to suggest that if current population trends hold, the country's population will shrink to approximately 38 million population towards the end of the 21st century.[56] In 2018, fertility in South Korea became again a topic of international debate after only 26,500 babies were born in October and an estimated of 325,000 babies in the year, causing the country to have the lowest birth rate in the world.[57][58][59]

North Korea

Further information: Demographics of North Korea

North Korean soldiers wearing Soviet-inspired uniform in the Joint Security Area
North Korean soldiers wearing Soviet-inspired uniform in the Joint Security Area

Estimating the size, growth rate, sex ratio, and age structure of North Korea's population has been extremely difficult. Until release of official data in 1989, the 1963 edition of the North Korea Central Yearbook was the last official publication to disclose population figures. After 1963 demographers used varying methods to estimate the population. They either totalled the number of delegates elected to the Supreme People's Assembly (each delegate representing 50,000 people before 1962 and 30,000 people afterwards) or relied on official statements that a certain number of persons, or percentage of the population, was engaged in a particular activity. Thus, on the basis of remarks made by President Kim Il-sung in 1977 concerning school attendance, the population that year was calculated at 17.2 million persons. During the 1980s, health statistics, including life expectancy and causes of mortality, were gradually made available to the outside world.[60]

In 1989, the Central Bureau of Statistics released demographic data to the United Nations Population Fund in order to secure the UNFPA's assistance in holding North Korea's first nationwide census since the establishment of the state in 1948. Although the figures given to the United Nations might have been distorted, it appears that in line with other attempts to open itself to the outside world, the North Korean regime has also opened somewhat in the demographic realm. Although the country lacks trained demographers, accurate data on household registration, migration, and births and deaths are available to North Korean authorities. According to the United States scholar Nicholas Eberstadt and demographer Brian Ko, vital statistics and personal information on residents are kept by agencies on the ri ("village", the local administrative unit) level in rural areas and the dong ("district" or "block") level in urban areas.[60]

Korean diaspora

Korean emigration to the U.S. was known to have begun as early as 1903, but the Korean American community did not grow to a significant size until after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965; as of 2017, excluding the undocumented and uncounted, roughly 1.85 million Koreans emigrants and people of Korean descent live in the United States according to the official figure by the US Census.[61] The Greater Los Angeles Area and New York metropolitan area in the United States contain the largest populations of ethnic Koreans outside of Korea or China. The Korean population in the United States represents a small share of the American economy, but has a disproportionately positive impact.[citation needed] Korean Americans have a savings rate double that of the U.S. average and also graduate from college at a rate double that of the U.S. average, providing highly skilled and educated professionals to the American workforce.[citation needed] According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Census 2000 data, mean household earnings for ethnic Koreans in the U.S. was $59,981, approximately 5.1% higher than the U.S. average at the time of $56,604.[62]

Significant Korean populations are present in China, Japan, Argentina, Brazil and Canada as well. The number of Koreans in Indonesia grew during the 1980s, while during the 1990s and 2000s the number of Koreans in the Philippines and Koreans in Vietnam have also grown significantly.[63][64] In Central Asia, significant populations reside in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, as well as parts of Russia including the Far East. Known as Koryo-saram, many of these are ancestors of Koreans who were forcely deported during the Soviet Union's Stalin regime.[65] The Korean overseas community of Uzbekistan is the 5th largest outside Korea.[4]

Koreans in the United Kingdom now form Western Europe's largest Korean community, albeit still relatively small; Koreans in Germany used to outnumber those in the UK until the late 1990s. In Australia, Korean Australians comprise a modest minority. Koreans have migrated[where?] significantly since the 1960s.

Part-Korean populations

Pak Noja said that there were 5,747 Japanese-Korean couples in Korea at the end of 1941.[66] Pak Cheil estimated there to be 70,000 to 80,000 "semi-Koreans" in Japan in the years immediately after the war.[67]


See also


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  36. ^ Service (KOCIS), Korean Culture and Information. "Researchers discover Korean genetic roots in 7,700-year-old skull". Korea. Retrieved 20 February 2022.
  37. ^ Siska, Veronika; Jones, Eppie Ruth; Jeon, Sungwon; Bhak, Youngjune; Kim, Hak-Min; Cho, Yun Sung; Kim, Hyunho; Lee, Kyusang; Veselovskaya, Elizaveta; Balueva, Tatiana; Gallego-Llorente, Marcos (3 February 2017). "Genome-wide data from two early Neolithic East Asian individuals dating to 7700 years ago". Science Advances. 3 (2): e1601877. doi:10.1126/sciadv.1601877. ISSN 2375-2548. PMC 5287702. PMID 28164156.
  38. ^ Hee Kim, Soon (2010). "Y chromosome homogeneity in the Korean population". International Journal of Legal Medicine. 124 (6): 653–657. doi:10.1007/s00414-010-0501-1. PMID 20714743. S2CID 27125545.
  39. ^ Wang, Yuchen; Lu, Dongsheng; Chung, Yeun-Jun; Xu, Shuhua (2018). "Genetic structure, divergence and admixture of Han Chinese, Japanese and Korean populations". Hereditas (published 6 April 2018). 155: 19. doi:10.1186/s41065-018-0057-5. PMC 5889524. PMID 29636655.
  40. ^ Kim, Young Jin; Jin, Han Jun (2013). "Dissecting the genetic structure of Korean population using genome-wide SNP arrays". Genes Genom. Cambridge: The Genetics Society of Korea (published 2014). 24 (3): 360. doi:10.1007/s13258-013-0082-8.
  41. ^ Pan, Ziqing; Xu, Shuhua (2019). "Population genomics of East Asian ethnic groups". Hereditas. Berlin: BioMed Central] (published 2020). 157 (49): 5. doi:10.1186/s41065-020-00162-w. PMC 7724877. PMID 33292737.
  42. ^ Reference Populations - Geno 2.0 Next Generation . (2017). The Genographic Project. Retrieved 15 May 2017, from link.
  43. ^ Eugene Y. Park. (n.d.). Penn Arts & Sciences East Asian Languages and Civilizations. Retrieved 24 January 2018, from link. Archived 11 November 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ Eugene Y. Park, from the 7:06 mark of the YouTube video to the 7:38 mark of the YouTube video, said, "Secondly, on the one hand, so many Koreans seem to talk, to be able to tell, one, something about his or her Gyeongju Kim ancestors, of a Silla kingdom two-thousand years ago. And yet, such a person is unlikely to be able to tell you something about his or her great-great-grandparents, what they were doing hundred years ago, what their occupations were, where they were living, where their family graves are. In other words, a memory blackout, before the twentieth century."
  45. ^ Eugene Y. Park, from the 16:54 mark of the YouTube video to the 18:54 mark of the YouTube video, said, "So, from this point on, then, I would like to survey, how the Koreans descended. Koreans, depending on their ancestors' status category, have dealt with genealogy and ancestry consciousness, in the last, differently, in the last two centuries. And, of course, most Koreans are not descendants of aristocrats, but, the, but what happened in the last hundred fifty, hundred to hundred fifty years, is that those Koreans, the vast majority of Koreans have lost memory of their actual history, in the sense where now, any outside observer who might ask a Korean person about ancestry, would be left with the impression that every Korean is now of aristocratic descent. So let me begin with the aristocracy. In the early modern era, the kind of a master narrative, stories that purport to explain a particular surname-ancestral seat combination's history, crystallize, they became set in stone, through inventing tradition. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, many, all families devise such a stories, to the extent where, now today in Korea, anybody who is interested in tracing his or her ancestry, has to deal with such master narratives, but at the same time it is next to impossible to look beyond master narratives. In other words, in Korea, today, there's little sense of doing the kind of doing the genealogical research that you and I would do in the United States, by looking at Census documents, and other types of documentation, that have been passed down through generations, or, have been maintained by the government."
  46. ^ Eugene Y. Park, from the 28:32 mark of the YouTube video to the 29:21 mark of the YouTube video, said, "This is an example. Here we see records that gives us a better sense of what inventing tradition was like. Here, a page from an eighteen seventy-three Miryang Pak family genealogy. Here's a man, indicated inside the circle named, Ju (). He had three sons: Eun-gyeong, Hyeon-gyeong, Won-gyeong ( , , ). But the edition that was published a bit later in the nineteen twenty, so we see the same man, Ju, and, under him, we see sons: Eun-gyeong, Hyeon-gyeong, Won-gyeong and, the extra, the fourth son, out of nowhere, Tōkhwa ( ). Actually, this is my family. So, this was commonly done in the modern era, the children, son out of nowhere or claims that we were left out centuries ago, and please include us."
  47. ^ Eugene Y. Park, from the 18:55 mark of the YouTube video to the 19:30 mark of the YouTube video, said, "And, these master narratives, genealogically connect all descent lines of a same surname and ancestral seat, to a single, common, ancestor. And, this was the pattern that was, that became universal by the nineteenth century. Whereas, genealogies published in the seventeenth century, actually, frankly admit that we do not know how these different lines of the same surname or ancestral seat are related or connected at all. So, all these changes took place only in the last two hundred years or so."
  48. ^ Eugene Y. Park, from the 46:17 mark of the YouTube video to the 47:02 mark of the YouTube video, said, "At any rate, so, once, so, based on one's surname Kim, let's say, and the ancestral seat, Kimhae, which is the most common ancestral seat among Kim surname Koreans, one can then look up, consult reference books, encyclopedias, go online to, find all these stories about different branches, famous individuals who are Kimhae Kim. But the problem is, of course, before the early modern era, only a small percentage of Koreans had surnames and the ancestral seat to begin with. In other words, the rest of the population had adopted these identities in the last two-three hundred years, so where does one go from there? And, this was definitely my challenge when I was a child."
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Further reading