Koreans in Chile
Coreanos en Chile
Total population
2,510 (2011, MOFAT)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Barrio Patronato in Santiago[2]
Chilean Spanish, Korean
Presbyterianism and Roman Catholicism[2]
Related ethnic groups
Korean diaspora

Koreans in Chile formed Latin America's sixth-largest Korean diaspora community as of 2011, according to the statistics of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.[1]

Migration history

The earliest Korean migrants to Chile were soldiers of the North Korean army captured by United Nations forces, who declined repatriation after the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement and came to Chile under the auspices of the Red Cross.[3] They were resettled in the city of Temuco.[4]

Immigration from South Korea to Chile would not begin until 1970, when five families came to work in the floriculture sector.[5] Three more families came by way of Bolivia in 1975 and another ten in 1976.[6] By 1978, the year of the founding of the Asociación Coreana de Chile, there were between twenty and thirty Korean families residing in Chile.[5][6] In 1978, twenty Korean families founded a school, the Colegio Coreano, with the assistances of the Presbyterian Church to offer weekend courses in Korean language, culture and history to Korean children in Chile.[7]

Most of the families immigrating in those days actually had Argentina as their final destination, and intended to reside in Chile only as long as it took them to obtain an Argentine visa, but as Argentina required prospective immigrants to have at least US$30,000 in capital, many found themselves unable to qualify; they instead settled in Chile, where the requirement was merely one-sixth that amount.[6] Many settled in the Barrio Patronato, a traditionally immigrant-dominated neighbourhood then filled largely with Arabs.[8] They started out in the textile manufacturing sector, but along with Chile's shift away from an import substitution-oriented economic model, they turned to opening shops and importing clothing and other products from their homeland instead.[9]

Between 1997 and 2005, the Korean population of Chile grew by one-quarter, from 1,470 to 1,858 individuals, surpassing in size the community of Koreans in Peru.[10] Afterwards, the population continued to grow, to 2,510 by 2011. South Korean governments showed a total of 48 ethnic Koreans with Chilean nationality, 2,366 with permanent residency, seven international students, and 119 with other types of visas.[1]

Inter-ethnic relations

Koreans in Chile are respected by Chileans of other backgrounds for their work ethic, but are perceived as a very closed community, especially with regards to interracial marriage.[11] The Korean shops of Patronato are well known for their low prices and diverse products but some Chileans and competitors feel some envy towards the commercial success of Koreans in their country.[12] At the same time, however, Chileans have respect for the rapid economic development undertaken by South Korea.[11] On the other hand, Koreans in Chile often perceive Chileans as superficial in their friendships, lazy, irresponsible, and somewhat racist.[13]


Among the Korean community in Chile, Protestantism is the majority religion; Patronato has two Presbyterian churches and one Roman Catholic one. Many Korean migrants to Chile were not Christians at the time of their arrival, but became churchgoers in order to take part in the specifically Korean social life offered by the churches, which offered them comfort and reminders of home after the stressful experience of migration to a foreign country.[14]


  1. ^ a b c 재외동포 본문(지역별 상세), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2011-07-15, p. 172, retrieved 2012-02-25
  2. ^ a b Rossel 2005
  3. ^ Park 2007, p. 7
  4. ^ Rossel 2005, p. 13
  5. ^ a b Park 2007, p. 17
  6. ^ a b c Rossel 2005, p. 14
  7. ^ Rossel 2005, pp. 25–26
  8. ^ Rossel 2005, pp. 4–6
  9. ^ Rossel 2005, p. 17
  10. ^ 재외동포현황 - 중남미 [Status of overseas compatriots - Central/South America], Overseas Korean Foundation, 2005, archived from the original on 2009-04-14, retrieved 2008-09-10
  11. ^ a b Min 2005
  12. ^ Valeria, Marco, "Presidente de la colonia coreana en Chile Kim Beung Nam: "Da pena que nos apunten con el dedo"", Diario las Últimas Noticias, Santiago, Chile, retrieved 2008-09-22[permanent dead link]
  13. ^ "Coreanos en Chile: ¿Cómo ven a los chilenos?", Portal AP: Cultura y sociedad, Biblioteca del Congress Nacional de Chile, 21 August 2008, retrieved 2008-09-22
  14. ^ Rossel 2005, p. 26


Further reading