Koreans in China
Total population
All Koreans2,109,727[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
Jilin, Heilongjiang, Liaoning, Shandong peninsula, Beijing and other Chinese cities
Chinese languages
Mahayana Buddhism[4] · Christianity

Koreans in China include both ethnic Koreans with Chinese nationality and non-Chinese nationalities such as South Korean (Chinese: 在华韩国人·韩裔) and North Korean (Chinese: 在华朝鲜人·朝鲜裔) people living in China. For this reason, ethnic Koreans with Chinese nationality or citizenship[5] are termed Korean Chinese,[note 1] Joseonjok, Chosŏnjok (Korean조선족; Hancha朝鮮族), and their official name in China is Chaoxianzu (朝鲜族; Cháoxiǎnzú; 'Joseon ethnic group'). They are the 13th largest officially-recognized ethnic minority group in China. Most of Korean Chinese live in Yanbian and Changbai within Jilin province. Significant populations can also be found in Heilongjiang, Liaoning, and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, with a sizable expat community in Shanghai. According to the South Korean government, the combined population of Koreans with Chinese nationality, South Korean, North Korean in China is 2,109,727 in 2023.[6]

The total population of ethnic Korean Chinese is 1,702,479 according to the 2021 Chinese government census.[7] High levels of emigration to the Republic of Korea for better economic and financial opportunities have contributed to a decrease in their numbers in China. Conversely, it is estimated that 42% (Approximately 708,000) of this Korean Chinese in Korea, maintaining their Chinese nationality. They are called Jaehan Joseonjok (재한조선족) or Zaihan Chaoxianzu (在韩朝鲜族).[8]

Koreans in China are the second largest ethnic Korean population living outside the Korean Peninsula, after Korean Americans.


In South Korea, the terminology describing this demographic has evolved in recent years to adopt a more inclusive tone. Government regulations from 2004 prescribe the use of the terms "jaeoe dongpo" (Korean재외동포; Hanja在外同胞; lit. compatriots residing abroad) and "jungguk dongpo" (Korean중국동포; Hanja中國同胞; lit. compatriots in China). The term "Jaejung Hanin" (Korean재중한인; Hanja在中韓人; lit. Koreans in China) is considered the most appropriate descriptor for Koreans in China without taking nationality into account.[9]

Additionally, the term "joseon-jok" (Korean조선족; Hanja朝鮮族; lit. Joseon ethnicity) is often used to refer to Koreans in China who have Chinese nationality. This terminology parallels "Chaoxianzu," which is predominantly utilized in mainland China and stands as the official designation for this ethnic minority, as stipulated by the Chinese government.[10]


Due to the geographic proximity between China and the Korean Peninsula, population migration of some kind has often occurred throughout history. However, most early ethnic Koreans in China had been assimilated by the Han Chinese, Manchus and Mongols.[11]: 2 [12]: 75–77  Thus, the overwhelming majority of today's ethnic Korean population in China are descendants of recent Korean arrivals.[11]: 48 

Early history

After the conclusion of the Goguryeo–Tang War CE 645 – 668, over 200,000 prisoners from Goguryeo were transported by the victorious Tang forces to the Chinese capital Chang'an.[13] During the 8th and 9th centuries since Silla, Korean trading quarters involved in trade with China existed in the coast of Shandong Peninsula and commercial towns on the Grand canal between the borders of Henan and Shandong and the lower Yangtze River.[14][15][16][17] These Koreans imported exotic products that were already foreign to China into Korea (Silla). Like other foreigners involved in trade, Koreans were placed in designated quarters in those cities such as Dengzhou, Yangzhou and Lianshui in Huai'an (Chuzhou) with special interpreters and managers for foreigners but Korean traders mostly avoided southern China.[18][19][20]

Liao to early Qing era

According to records of History of Liao (Chinese: 遼史), Khitans set up a Samhan county, in Zhongjing Circuit (中京道), one of the Liao's 5 "circuits", after Goryeo–Khitan War to settle prisoners of wars.[21] In the Yuan dynasty, Koreans were included along with Northern Chinese, Khitans and Jurchens in the third class, as "Han people".[22][23] Korean settlements in the Yuan Dynasty were mostly war-related. In 1233, former Goryeo commander Hong Pok-wŏn and his followers moved to the current-day Liaoyang and Shenyang areas of Liaoning Province in Northeast China after his surrender to the Mongols during the Mongol invasions of Korea, and was offered an administrator position to take charge of Korean population there. In the next years, another ten thousand Goryeo households were brought under his administration. In 1266, Wang Jun (王綧), a member of the Goryeo royal family, was sent to the Mongol Empire as a hostage. There were 2,000 Goryeo households accompanying him and settling down in the current-day Shenyang city.[12]: 76 

The Korean population in China surged during the Ming dynasty. According to Chronicles of Liaodong (遼東志), Koreans and Jurchens accounted for 30% of the total local population in Liaodong.[24] In 1386, the Ming government set up the Dongningwei (東寧衛) and Guangningwei (廣寧衛) to settle the increasing Korean population.[12]: 76  Between the mid-15th century and the early 16th century, the Liaodong Peninsula experienced a peaceful and prosperous era. Favorable policies were carried out towards ethnic minorities in areas like Dongningwei (東寧衛). Many Koreans moved from the Korean Peninsula to Northeast China to enjoy such favorable policies.[25]: 33  However, as the rising power of Jianzhou Jurchens grew stronger and stronger, Koreans began to move out of Dongningwei. By 1537, the Korean population in Dongningwei had decreased by 60%.[25]: 37 

As Jurchens (known as Manchus after 1635) established the Later Jin (後金), military clashes between Jurchens and Koreans increased. During the two Jurchen invasions of the Korean Peninsula, they plundered large numbers of Korean people. Most of these Koreans captured by Jurchens were drafted as soldiers into the Eight Banners or sold to rich Jurchens as farm laborers or servants. Most of the captured Koreans in the early Qing dynasty were forcefully converted to Manchu or other ethnicities and lost their ethnic identities. But about 2000 descendants from these captured Koreans in Qinglong Manchu Autonomous County Hebei province, Gaizhou and Benxi County in Liaoning Province have still kept their Korean identity[note 2] In 1982, during the third national population census of China, these 2,000 ethnic Koreans were restored their Korean ethnicity per their requests in accordance to the then newly issued Chinese government policy.[11]: 298–300 [12]: 76–77 [25]: 58–59 

Late Qing era

In 1677, Manchus sealed the area north of Baekdu Mountain, Yalu River, and Tumen River as a conservation area of their ancestors' birthplace, and prohibited Koreans and people of other non-Manchu ethnicities from entering the area. The Joseon rulers were also forced by the Qing government to implement harsh penalties to prevent Koreans from entering the sealed areas. As a result, the areas became deserted with no human settlements.[11]: 5 [25]: 88–91  But there were still Koreans living nearby who took the risk to collect ginseng, hunt animals, or cultivate agricultural products in the prohibited area.[11]: 5 [25]: 76–87  In 1740, the Qing government extended the ban to the whole Northeast China region.[25]: 62 

During the second half of the nineteenth century, Northeast China increasingly became depopulated after 200 years of Manchus' closure to the region. The Russian Empire meanwhile seized the opportunity to encroach on this region. In 1860, the Qing government was forced to sign the Convention of Peking and ceded more than 1 million square kilometers to the Russians. [25]: 113  Pressed by the situation, the Qing government lifted the ban on Northeast China in 1860 and lifted the ban on the Yalu River and Tumen River area in 1875 and 1881 respectively.[25]: 106  During the years between 1860 and 1870, several unprecedented natural disasters struck the northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Meanwhile, peasant revolts in the south spread to the north. Large numbers of Korean refugees moved to the north banks of the Tumen and Yalu rivers during those turbulent times. In 1879, there were 8722 Korean households living in 28 villages in Tonghua, Huairen, Kuandian, Xinbin areas, with a total population of more than 37,000.[11]: 5 [25]: 122  In 1881, the Qing government established a special bureau to recruit farmers to cultivate the land and allocated the 700 by 45-square-kilometer area north of the Tumen River as the special farming areas for Korean farmers. The Qing government strengthened the management of Korean emigrants during the start of the 20th century. Korean emigrants were able to obtain land ownership if they were willing to adopt the dress codes required by the Manchu government, such as the Queue hairstyle, and pay taxes to the Qing government. However, most of the Korean emigrants considered that official dress codes were a discriminatory policy of assimilation. By 1910, the number of Korean migrants in China reached about 260,000, with around 100,000 of them living in the current-day Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture.[11]: 6 [12]: 77–78 [25]: 162 

Development of paddy fields in Northeast China

The development of paddy fields in Northeast China during the modern era was related to rice cultivation by Korean emigrants. Korean emigrants attempted to cultivate rice in the Hun River valley as early as 1848. The experiment by Korean farmers in the Dandong region was successful in 1861. In 1875, Korean farmers also succeeded in cultivating rice in the wetland of Huanren region in Liaoning province. The cultivation of rice in Yanbian region began in 1877.[26]: 14–15 [12]: 130–232 [25]: 358–360  The growth of paddy fields brings the further development of irrigation projects in Northeast China by Korean farmers, who built numerous watering canals to irrigate paddy fields. In June 1906, 14 Korean farmers built the earliest irrigation system in Yanbian. The total length of canals built exceeded 1.3 kilometer, irrigating 33 hectare of paddy fields.[25]: 360 [26]: 16 

On 3 March 1914, the newly established Republic of China issued a decree aimed to encourage land development in Northeastern China. In the same year, the water bureau of the Mukden province began to recruit Korean emigrants to use the water from Hun River to develop paddy fields near Mukden.[25]: 240–242 [26]: 17  In 1916, the local government of Jilin Province submitted a paddy field farming specifications document of a Korean immigrant farmer to the central Agriculture and Business Administration. After receiving the administration's approval, Jinlin Province started to promote rice production. Han Chinese farmer began to hire Korean emigrants to learn how to grow rice.[25]: 246  In 1917, Korean farmers in Muling solved the problem of how to grow rice in regions with short frost-free period. Rice farming thereafter quickly expanded to the further north region of Mudan River, Muling River and Mayi River basins.[26]: 18 

Between 1921 and 1928, the total areas of paddy fields in Northeast China increased from 48,000 hectare to 125,000 hectares, more than 80% of these rice fields was developed or cultivated by Korean farmers. In 1933, Korean farmers succeeded in growing rice in Aihui and Xunke area along Amur River, breaking the world record of growing rice north of the 50th parallel north. In 1934, Korean population accounted for only 3.3% of Northeast China's total population, but produced 90.1% of the rice outputs there.[12]: 130-131 

During the Japanese Occupation of Korea

After the Japanese Occupation of Korea in 1910, thousands of Koreans fled to Northeast China and other regions of China to escape Japanese rule. Many Korean independence movement activists and organizations established bases or military training schools in Northeast China and move Korean people there in an organized way. In 1919, after the Japanese crackdown on March 1st Movement, Korean migration to China reached a peak. In 1920, the total number of Koreans in Northeast China exceeded 457,400.[11]: 7 

During 1910–1934, cadastral land surveys and rice production promotion plans carried out by Governor-General of Korea forced thousands of disadvantaged Korean farmers to lose their land ownership or go to bankruptcy. Since there were no large enough urban industry to absorb these redundant rural population, the Japanese started to migrate these Korean farmers to Northeast China. [11]: 7  At the same time, the newly established Republic of China was promoting land developments in Northeast China. This offered a favorable condition for the Japanese population migration policy.[25]: 240–242 [26]: 17  After the Chinese government issued the national wild land development decree on 3 March 1914, the water bureau of Mukden Province began to hire Korean emigrants to develop paddy fields near Mukden using the water from Hun River. Since Korean farmers had succeeded in growing rice in Northeast China in large scale and the price of rice in Japan kept climbing every year, the Japanese started to increase their paddy fields in Northeast China each year and hire Korean emigrants to grow rice.[25]: 240-246 

The Fengtian clique in Northeast China maintained a complicated relationship with the Japanese. They sometimes cooperated with the Japanese and sometimes were at odds with them.[25]: 305  To fight for the control of Korean emigrants, the Fengtian clique attempted to persuade or force Korean emigrants to become naturalized citizens of China. But most Korean emigrants considered such policies as Chinese authority's attempt to assimilate them into Han Chinese. In September 1930, realizing that Korean emigrants had little trust in Chinese governments, the Chairman of Jinlin Province Zhang Zuoxiang instead carried out policies to encourage Korean emigrants to become naturalized. [25]: 317-319  To prevent the Japanese from using Korean emigrants as a tool of infiltration into Northeast China, the Chinese government also tried to put Korean immigrants' schools into its own national education system, increasing investments on Korean schools annually to sever the Japanese influence on Korean emigrants. In 1921, Jinlin province quadrupled its annual investments on local Korean schools to repair the damages during the Japanese massacre of Koreans (間島慘變) in Oct. 1920.[25]: 305-305  As the Japanese often used the excuse of protecting Korean emigrants to enlarge their sphere of influence in Northeast China, the views of Chinese government and people towards Korean emigrants changed after the mid of 1920, especially after the exposure of Tanaka Memorial and the Wanpaoshan Incident. Korean emigrants used to be considered as independent activists in China, but now they were generally considered as the vanguard of Japanese invasion. Relationship between local Chinese and Korean emigrants became tense.[25]: 312  After the Chinese government signed the treaty with the Japanese government on 11 June 1925 to assist the Japanese get rid of Korean independent activists in Northeast China, the Fengtian clique began to use this treaty to expel and persecute Korean emigrants and began to take back the farm lands cultivated by non-naturalized Korean emigrants or put on more restrictions. Naturalized Korean emigrants, however, continue to have the rights to own farm lands.[25]: 316-321 

Under these circumstances, Korean emigrants in Northeast China began to have the consensus of becoming naturalized and actively seeking local autonomy. Many anti-Japanese Korean organizations took measures to protect Korean emigrants and negotiated local Chinese governments into making concessions or acquiescence.[25]: 338-339  In 1928, Zhang Xueliang replaced the Beiyang government flag in Northeast China with Republic of China's flag, after the Huanggutun incident. Many Korean independent organizations seized this good opportunity to encourage Korean emigrants in Northeast China to apply for Chinese citizenship.[25]: 341  On 10 September 1928, Korean emigrants in Northeast China established the Korean autonomy organization "Korean Fellow Association" (韓橋同鄕會). In April, the leader of Korean Fellow Association Cui Dongwu went to Nanjing and hold negotiations with the Nationalist government on various issues about Korean emigrants' naturalization and autonomy. These negotiations helped to facilitate the naturalization process for Korean emigrants, but failed in establishing Korean autonomy.[25]: 342-347 

In 1931, Japan staged the Mukden Incident and invaded Northeast China by force, then established a puppet state called Manchukuo. [11]: 10  On 14 September 1936, the Japanese set up a special organization (滿鮮拓殖會社) and began to migrate Korean farmers to Northeast China in a planned systemic way.[25]: 517-518  In 1945, when Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, there were more than 2.16 million Korean emigrants living in Northeast China. Among them, about 700,000 returned to Korea after the end of World War II. In 1947, the number of Korean emigrants decreased to 1.4 million, most of them living in the communist party controlled areas, only less than 100,000 living in the Kuomintang-controlled areas.[25]: 635-636 [27]

Anti-Japanese fights

On 13 March 1919 shortly after the March 1st Movement in Korea, around 300,000 Koreans in Yanbian rallied on the Ruidian meadow in Longjing to protest against the Japanese and demonstrate supports for the 1 March Movement. This is the first massive grassroot anti-Japanese demonstration in Yanbian. [28]: 121 [11] A declaration of independence drafted by Yanbian Koreans was read out at the rally. The crowd then marched towards the Japanese consulate in Longjing, chanting anti-Japanese slogans and waving Taegukgi and placards. The crowd was stopped by Fengtian clique soldiers and Japanese police near the west gate of the Japanese consulate. Bullets were fired towards the demonstrators. 19 people were killed, 48 injured and 94 arrested.[11]: 121  From 13 March to 1 May, a total of 73 anti-Japanese Korean rallies broke out in 15 counties in Northeast China. The total number of people participated in these demonstrations exceed 100,000.[11]: 124 

In June 1920, the Korean independence fighters led by Hong Beom-do engaged the first armed force combat with the Imperial Japanese Army in Wangqing County, killing more than 100 Japanese soldiers. This led to the "Gando massacre" a few months later in Yanbian. The Japanese army killed 15,000 Koreans and destroyed more than 3,500 houses, 95 schools, 19 churches and nearly 25,000 kg grains. Between 21 and 26 October 1920, the combined Korean Liberation Army forces led by Kim Chwa-chin, Lee Beom-seok and Hong Beom-do fought the Battle of Qingshanli against Imperial Japanese Army in Helong. Local Korean residents provided vital supports for the Korean Liberation Army.[11]: 125 [29]: 176–192 

In the 1930s, many Koreans in China joined the Anti-Japanese forces led by the Chinese Communist Party.[11]: 127  In June 1932, Korean leader Li Hongguang established one of the earliest Anti-Japanese Volunteer Armies (磐石工農義勇軍) in Northeast China. Most of its members were ethnic Koreans in China. Li later became a Key member of The Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army. Among the 11 army divisions of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army, Koreans accounted for half of the total number in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 7th army division. During the 14 years of fight against the Japanese, Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army killed 183,700 Japanese soldiers. [12]: 121-124 

Resumption of Chinese Civil War (1946–1949)

After the end of Second World War, Kuomintang forces took over the Northeast China from the Soviet Red Army. The Kuomintang initially implemented similar policies towards both Korean and Japanese people, impounding or confiscating Korean properties and repatriating Korean emigrants. Since Korean farmers played important roles in rice production in Northeast China, the Kuomintang revoked this hostile policy towards Koreans in China after the intervention of Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea and even took measures to persuade Korean farmers to stay in China to prevent possible declines in rice production in Northeast China. [25]: 628-687 

In contrast to the Kuomintang, the Chinese Communist Party had been very friendly towards Koreans in China. Koreans had a long history of friendship with the Chinese communists. Koreans participated in both the Nanchang Uprising and Guangzhou Uprising, and contributed to the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party's army and the base of the Chinese Red Army in the Jinggang Mountains. [12]: 120  The Chinese Communist Party considered Koreans in China as the same class of people in China who were oppressed and exploited by both the Imperial Japanese and feudal warlords in China, and a reliable source of support in the fight against the Imperial Japanese and feudal warlords. In July 1928, the Chinese Communist Party officially included Koreans in China as one of the ethnic minorities of China on its 6th National Conference. After the Japanese invasion of Northeast China, cooperation between the communists and Koreans in China strengthened and the social status of Koreans among the communists rose to new heights. [25]: 719-721  the Chinese Communists let the Koreans choose whether to voluntarily become Chinese citizens and left them ample time and options to choose. [25]: 726  In March 1946, Northeast China started the Land Reform Movement, allocating the land formerly occupied by the Japanese or rich Chinese and rich Koreans. Korean farmers in China received farmland just as other Chinese farmers did. [25]: 671 [12]: 133–135  From October 1947, the land reform was expanded to nationwide.[25]: 669 

During the War of Liberation, 63,000 Koreans from Northeast China joined the People's Liberation Army, more than 100,000 joined local military forces and hundreds of thousands participated logistics supports. Soldiers in the 164th, 166th and 156th of the Fourth Field Army are mostly Koreans. They participated in the Siege of Changchun, Battle of Siping, Liaoshen Campaign, then continued to fight as far as in the Hainan Island Campaign.[12]: 127 

Since 1949

After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Koreans in China became one of the official members of Zhonghua minzu. The total population of Koreans in China was 1.1 million, 47.6% of them living in Yanbian.[12]: 97  In September 1949, Zhu Dehai, the chairman and local specialist of Chinese Communist Party in Yanbian attended the first plenary session of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) as one of the 10 ethnic minorities, participated in the establishment of CPPCC as a representative of Koreans in China. He also attended the grand ceremony for the founding of the People's Republic of China.[25]: 732 [12]: 104 

After the outbreak of Korean War in 1950, young Koreans in China actively joined the People's Volunteer Army in response to the Chinese Communist Party's call.[30] These bilingual soldiers provided valuable communications help to other Chinese soldiers with locals in Korea in addition to manpower. Zhao Nanqi, Li Yongtai are two of the most notable Korean figures who participated in the war. Koreans in Longjing also organized the "Yanji Jet" donation campaign. Donations from Koreans in Yanbian reached the equivalent value of 6.5 jet fighters after the enormous destruction caused by the American Bombing of North Korea around 1.5 million Koreans were killed.[26]: 58-63 

On 3 March 1952, Yanbian was officially designated as a Korean Autonomous Region and Zhu Dehai was appointed as the first Chairman. On 20 July 1954, the first session of People's Congress was held in Yanbian. In April 1955, "Yanbian Korean Autonomous Region" was renamed as "Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture" per the stipulation of the first Constitution of People's Republic of China and Zhu Dehai was appointed as the first Chairman.[26]: 65–66 [12]: 97 [31] On 29 May 1958, the State Council of the People's Republic of China approved the decision to designate Changbai County as "Changbai Korean Autonomous County".[26]: 67-68 [32]

During the Cultural Revolution, many Korean cadres including Zhu Dehai were prosecuted as capitalist roaders, local nationalists or counterrevolutionists. Many faculty members of Yanbian University were also prosecuted. The number of Yanbian University's faculty and staff decreased to 23.7% of that in 1966. The Korean language was labeled as part of the Four Olds, texts in Korean were burned, and bilingual education was suppressed.[33] According to Julia Lovell, "[e]vents took a horrific turn in the frontier town of Yanbian, where freight trains trundled from China into the DPRK, draped with the corpses of Koreans killed in the pitched battles of the Cultural Revolution, and daubed with threatening graffiti: 'This will be your fate also, you tiny revisionists!'"[34] After the Cultural Revolution ended, things gradually restored to normal. [26]: 70 [35]: 161–163  [36]

On 24 April 1985, the eighth session of the People's Congress of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture passed the "Autonomy Regulations of Korean Autonomous Prefecture", which was later approved by the sixth session of Jilin Province People's Congress as law. The Yanbian Autonomy Regulations consist of 7 chapters and 75 clauses. It stipulated political, economic, cultural, educational, and social rights of and policies for Korean and other ethnic people in Yanbian Autonomous Prefecture in the form of law. It is the first autonomy regulations in China's history.[12]: 116  These regulations stipulated that the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Prefectural People's Congress should be a Korean, and that Koreans may occupy more than half the posts within the Prefectural People's Government as vice mayors, the chief secretary, directors of bureaus, and so on.[37] Other regulations require the use of both Korean and Chinese languages while performing governmental duties, with Korean being the principal language used, along with encouraging the use of Korean in local primary and middle school.[37]

In September 1994, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture was selected by the State Council of the People's Republic of China as a "Model Autonomous Prefecture". Yanbian was the first autonomous prefecture in China to receive this title and it had continuously received this title five times.[38][12][39] According to a 2012 University of North Carolina honors thesis, the Chaoxianzu are seen as a model minority and have good relations with both the Chinese government and Han majority.[40]



Yanbian University College of Science and Technology

Koreans in China have a tradition of education. The education level of Koreans in China is above China's national average and one of the highest among ethnic groups in China.[41][42] The Chinese government is also very supportive in preserving their language and culture. Korean schools from kindergarten to higher education are allowed to teach in Korean language in Yanbian. Yanbian University located in Yanji city is a comprehensive university offering bachelor to doctoral degrees. The university is one of the Project 211 national key university and a member of the Double First Class University Plan.[43]

There are also many South Korean international day schools in Mainland China, including Korean International School in Beijing, Guangzhou Korea School, Korean International School in Shenzhen, Suzhou Korean School [ko], Korean International School in Yanbian, Dalian Korean International School [ko], Shenyang Korean International School [ko], Qingdao Chungwoon Korean School [ko], Weihai Korean School [ko], Korean School in Yantai, Shanghai Korean School, Tianjin Korean International School [ko] etc. In addition, the Shenzhen Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry organizes a Korean Saturday school because many Korean students are not studying in Korean-medium schools; the school had about 600 students in 2007. The chamber uses rented space in the Overseas Chinese Town (OCT) Primary School as the Korean weekend school's classroom.[44] There is also the Korean International School of Hong Kong.


The majority of ethnic Koreans in China, like the demographics of China overall, have no formal affiliations with a religion. Major religions among ethnic Koreans in China include Buddhism[4] and Christianity (with service in Korean).[45]

Public media

The Korean language has been promoted in Yanbian partly by the government through a large network of schools, local Korean periodicals and television broadcasts, as well as a local law mandating all street signs be written in Korean and Chinese.[46] Most ethnic Koreans in China speak Mandarin Chinese and many also speak fluent Korean as their mother tongue.[4] Many Chinese of Korean descent have ancestral roots and family ties in the Hamgyong region of North Korea and speak the Hamgyŏng dialect of Korean according to North Korean conventions.[32]

However, since South Korea has been more prolific in exporting its entertainment culture, more Korean Chinese broadcasters have been using Seoul dialect. The so-called Korean Wave (Hallyu) has influenced fashion styles.[31]

In public appearances, ethnic Koreans in China are represented by the wearing of Chosŏn-ot, which caused discontent from South Korean ultra-nationalists during the 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.[47]

North Koreans

See also: North Korean defectors and North Korean passport

North Korean defectors often pass through China. Some of them settle there while others continue to South Korea.

China has a large number of North Korean refugees, estimated in the tens of thousands. Some North Korean refugees who are unable to obtain transport to South Korea instead marry Chaoxianzu and settle down in China, blending into the community; however, they are still subject to deportation if discovered by the authorities.[48][49] Although the PRC government estimated 10,000 refugees in the country, the United Nations alleged between 30,000 and 50,000 refugees, of which 75 percent are women. A large number of them experience forced marriage and human trafficking,[50] although two academics have argued that many cases are more voluntary than forced.[51][52] Most of the refugees originate from North Hamgyong Province. Victor Cha states that 86% of refugees seek passage to South Korea rather than remain in China,[53] but this is disputed by The Hankyoreh.[54] According to a 2015 UC Santa Cruz paper, many North Korean refugees met locals who gave aid to them and did not judge them for their communist origins.[55]

North Koreans seen as politically reliable by their government can acquire passports and visas for travelling to China.[56] As of 2011, there are an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 North Koreans residing as legal resident aliens in China. An increasing number are applying for naturalization as Chinese citizens; this requires a certificate of loss of North Korean nationality, which North Korean authorities have recently become more reluctant to issue.[57] Major North Korean universities, such as the Kim Il-sung University and the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, send a few dozen exchange students to Peking University and other top-ranked Chinese universities each year.[58]

In June 2012, the Los Angeles Times reported that Beijing and Pyongyang had signed an agreement to grant as many as 40,000 industrial trainee visas to North Koreans to permit them to work in China per year; the first batch of workers arrived earlier in the year in the city of Tumen in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture.[59] There have been reportedly 130 North Korean state-run restaurants in 12 countries, with most in China.[60] Two have been found in Beijing,[61] three in Shanghai,[62] and others in Dandong.[63]

South Koreans

After the 1992 normalization of diplomatic relations between the PRC and South Korea, many citizens of South Korea started to settle in Mainland China; large new communities of South Koreans have subsequently formed in Beijing, Shanghai, Dalian and Qingdao.[64] The South Korean government officially recognizes seven Korean international schools in China (in Yanbian, Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Yantai, Qingdao, and Dalian, respectively), all founded between 1997 and 2003.[65] Most of the population of Koreans in Hong Kong consists of South Korea migrant workers.[citation needed]

Typically, they come to China as employees of South Korean corporations on short-term international assignments or as employers of South Korean businesses operating in China handling Chinese workers; when their assignments are completed, many prefer to stay on in China, using the contacts they have made to start their own consulting businesses or import/export firms. Other South Koreans moved to China on their own after becoming unemployed during the 1997 financial crisis; they used funds they had saved up for retirement to open small restaurants or shops.[66] The low cost of living compared to Seoul, especially the cheap tuition at international schools teaching English and Chinese, is another pull factor for temporary South Korean migration to Mainland China but usually after this period, those that have moved have mostly gone back to Korea.[64]

The number of South Koreans in China was estimated to be 300,000 to 400,000 as of 2006; at the 2006 rate of growth, their population had been expected to reach one million by 2008.[64] By 2007, the South Korean Embassy in Beijing stated their population had reached 700,000. However, due to the global economic downturn in 2008 and the depreciation of the Korean won, large numbers of those returned to South Korea. A Bloomberg News article initially stated the proportion as 20% (roughly 140,000 people).[67] Between 2008 and 2009, South Korean government figures show that the number of Koreans in China dropped by 433,000.[68] The Sixth National Population Census of the People's Republic of China reported 120,750 South Koreans in Mainland China, the largest single foreign group.[69]


Korean autonomous prefectures and counties in China.

See also: Korean people in Beijing

See also: Korean community of Shanghai

See also: Koreans in Hong Kong


As of 2008 there are more than 148,000 Koreans living in Shandong.[70]


As of 2007 there were about 20,000 people of Korean origins in Shenzhen, with the Nanshan and Futian districts having significant numbers. That year the chairperson of the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kang Hee-bang, stated that about 10,000 lived in Overseas Chinese Town (OCT). Shekou, the area around Shenzhen University, and Donghai Garden housing estate had other significant concentrations.[44] Donghai Garden began attracting Koreans due to its transportation links and because, around 1998, it was the sole residential building classified as 3-A. As of 2014 Donghai had about 200 Korean families.[71]

South Koreans began going to the Shenzhen area during the 1980s as part of the reform and opening up era, and this increased when South Korea established formal diplomatic relations with the PRC.[71]

In 2007 about 500 South Korean companies in Shenzhen were involved in China-South Korean trade, and there were an additional 500 South Korean companies doing business in Shenzhen. In 2007 Kang stated that most of the Koreans in Shenzhen had lived there for five years or longer.[44]

As of 2007 there were some Korean children enrolled in schools for Chinese locals.[44] As of 2014 spaces for foreign students in Shenzhen public schools were limited, so some Korean residents are forced to put their children in private schools.[71] In addition, in 2007, there were about 900 Korean children in non-Chinese K-12 institutions; the latter included 400 of them at private international schools in Shekou, 300 in private schools in Luohu District, and 200 enrolled at the Baishizhou Bilingual School. Because many Korean students are not studying in Korean-medium schools, the Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry operates a Korean Saturday School; it had about 600 students in 2007. The chamber uses rented space in the OCT Primary School as the Korean weekend school's classroom.[44]

Notable people

Historical figures

Contemporary Chaoxianzu/Joseonjok

Expatriates of other nationalities and their descendants

See also


  1. ^ Commonly called by South Koreans 한국계 중국인; 韓國系中國人; lit. Chinese people of Korean descent
  2. ^ The ancestors of the Koreans in Qinglong Manchu Autonomous County, Hebei province were drafted into the "Bordered White Banner" after capture by Jurchens in the early Qing Dynasty during war, and then followed the Manchus to move to Beijing. They were banished to Changli County after their participation in a coup during Shunzhi Emperor's rule and then exiled. Their descendants later moved to their current location. The ancestors of the Koreans in Gaizhou Liaoning Province were forced to become farm laborers on Nurhaci's farm, and then Prince Zhuang's farm. The ancestors of the Koreans in Benxi County in Liaoning Province became Nurhaci's first son Cuyen's farm labors after capture by Jurchens during wars.[11]



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  3. ^ http://www.cnstats.org/tjnj/2022/3225.htm
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  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Jin Binggao (金炳镐); Xiao Rui (肖锐) (2011). 《中国民族政策与朝鲜族》. Beijing: Minzu University of China Press. ISBN 978-7-5660-0096-5.
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