Koreans in Micronesia
Total population
7,512 (2013)
Regions with significant populations
 Northern Marianas2,281[1]
 F. S. of Micronesia47[3]
 Marshall Islands45[4]
Korean, Japanese[6]
Related ethnic groups
Korean diaspora

Koreans in Micronesia used to form a significant population before World War II, when most of the region was ruled as the South Seas Mandate of the Empire of Japan; for example, they formed 7.3% of the population of Palau in 1943. However, after the area came under the control of the United States as the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, most Koreans returned to their homeland. As of 2013, about seven thousand South Korean expatriates & immigrants and Korean Americans reside in the Marianas (Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands), which have remained under U.S. control, while only around two hundred South Korean expatriates reside in the independent countries of Micronesia.

Japanese colonial era (1914–1945)

The earliest known Koreans in Palau are believed to be 10 comfort women who arrived in 1936.[7] As the demand for labour increased sharply with the onset of war, Japanese authorities turned to the Korean peninsula as a source of cheap workers.[8] The first Korean labourers came in January 1939, a group of 500; they were employed by Hōnan Sangyō K.K. (豊南産業株式会社) in cassava processing. From then until February 1940, 13 further shipments totalling 1,266 Korean workers arrived in Palau.[9]

A 1943 census showed Palau's total Korean population at 2,458, or 7.3% of the population at the time; they were only one-tenth the size of the Japanese population. 864 lived on Babeldaob, another 721 were housed at the naval base on Malakal Island, 539 lived at Angaur, and the remaining 334 were scattered throughout other locations.[10] Roman Tmetuchl, a Palauan recruited to work for the Kempeitai, recalled in an interview some years later that the Japanese discriminated against the Koreans even more heavily than they did against the Palauans.[11]

There were about 2,400 Koreans on Tinian at the time of the eponymous July 1944 battle which brought the island under U.S. control; they greeted their liberation from Japanese colonialism enthusiastically, and donated US$666.35 saved from their 35 cents/day wages to further the war effort.[12]

Along with the Japanese, the Koreans were all repatriated after the surrender of Japan ended World War II. The process of repatriation began in September 1945, and lasted until May 1946.[13] The total number who repatriated to Korea from Palau was recorded at greater than 3,000 people.[14] In total, across all of the islands, U.S. records show 10,966 Korean repatriates (6,880 civilians, 3,751 military servicemen, and 190 soldiers), while Japanese records show just 7,727.[15]

Recent years (1945–present)

U.S. territories

According to the statistics of South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are 5,016 Koreans residing in Guam (1,933 Korean Americans, 1,426 with immigrant status, 133 international students, and 1,524 South Korean expatriates with other types of visas) and 2,281 in the Northern Mariana Islands (159 Korean Americans, 102 with immigrant status, 214 international students, and 1,806 with other types of visas).[1]

Modern South Korean immigration to Guam began in 1971.[16]

In Marpi, Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, a memorial to Korean soldiers in the Imperial Japanese Army who died during the Battle of Saipan was constructed in 1978.[17] The local Korean community have held memorial services there annually since then.[18] Akihito, Emperor of Japan visited the monument to pay his respects in June 2005 [19]


Only about 120–130 South Korean expatriates live in Palau, including roughly 80 working on a construction project at Babeldaob.[2][20] South Korea also ranked as the second-largest source country for tourists to Palau, behind the Republic of China on Taiwan; 5,507 South Korean tourists arrived in Palau in June 2006, an increase of 2% compared to June 2005.[21]

See also



  1. ^ a b c MOFA 2013, p. 133 (Chapter 3)
  2. ^ a b MOFA 2013, p. 110 (Chapter 2)
  3. ^ MOFA 2013, p. 82 (Chapter 2)
  4. ^ MOFA 2013, p. 81 (Chapter 2)
  5. ^ MOFA 2013, p. 102 (Chapter 2)
  6. ^ Peattie 1988, p. 220
  7. ^ Gim 2006, p. 4
  8. ^ ‘아이고다리’의 전설을 아십니까 [Do you know the legend of 'Aigotari'?], The Hankyoreh (in Korean), no. 688, 2007-12-06, retrieved 2008-02-25
  9. ^ Gim 2006, p. 9
  10. ^ Mason et al. 1956, pp. 14–15
  11. ^ Petty 2001, p. 72
  12. ^ "Koreans on Tinian Island, Grateful to U.S. For Liberation, Give $666 to War Effort", The New York Times, 1945-02-05, retrieved 2009-05-12
  13. ^ Gim 2006, p. 17
  14. ^ Gim 2006, p. 21
  15. ^ "U.S. list of Korean laborers under Japan contradicts Tokyo's figures: Compiled by U.S. fleet, papers document those returned to Korea", The Hankyoreh, 2006-08-12, retrieved 2009-05-12
  16. ^ Delgado, Nick (2011-10-01). "Korean community shares 40th anniversary of immigrants coming to Guam". KUAM News.
  17. ^ Pangelinan-Brown, Rianne (2008-05-16), "Over 80 Koreans visit Peace Memorial", Saipan Tribune, archived from the original on 2009-03-26, retrieved 2009-05-12
  18. ^ Eugenio, Haidee V. (2009-05-11), "'Remembering those who perished during the war'", Saipan Tribune, archived from the original on 2012-02-14, retrieved 2009-05-12
  19. ^ Donato, Agnes E. (2005-06-29), "Historic stop at Korean memorial", Saipan Tribune, archived from the original on 2007-02-12, retrieved 2009-05-12
  20. ^ "팔라우는‥산호환초 거센 파도 막아줘", The Hankyoreh, 2004-10-28, retrieved 2008-02-25
  21. ^ "More South Korean tourists visiting Palau", Radio New Zealand International, 2006-08-17, retrieved 2008-02-25


  • Mason, A.C.; Corwin, G.; Rogers, C.L.; Elmquist, P.O.; Vessel, A.J.; McCracken, R.J. (1956), "Introduction", Military Geology of Palau Islands, Caroline Islands, Tokyo: Intelligence Division, Office of the Engineer, U.S. Army Forces Far East
  • Peattie, Mark (1988), Nan'Yo: The Rise and Fall of the Japanese in Micronesia, 1885-1945, Pacific Islands Monograph Series, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 0-8248-1480-0
  • Gim, Do-hyeong (2006), 중부태평양 팔라우 군도 한인의 강제동원과 귀환 [Forced Mobilisation and Repatriation of Koreans in the Palauan Archipelago] (PDF), Collected Papers, vol. 26, Seoul: Korea Research Foundation, retrieved 2009-05-04
  • Petty, Bruce M., ed. (2001), Saipan: Oral Histories of the Pacific War, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, ISBN 978-0-7864-0991-4
  • 재외동포현황 [Status of Compatriots Abroad], Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2013-09-30, retrieved 2015-04-30

Further reading[edit]

  • Franklin, Rose Marie T. (1975), The United States' "guest workers": a case study of Korean temporary workers on Guam, Ph.D. thesis, Western Michigan University, OCLC 17756668