Koreans in Singapore
Total population
21,406 (2019)[1][2]
Korean, English; some study Mandarin as a second language
Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism[3]
Related ethnic groups
Korean diaspora

Koreans in Singapore consist mainly of South Korean expatriates. The community formed a population of 21,406 as of 2019, according to South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, making them the world's 18th-largest Korean diaspora community.[1] Their population has grown by about 60% since 2007.[4] Many South Koreans living in Singapore are usually expatriates, consisting of 40-45% of the community, self-employed or Korean business owners consisting of 30% and students consisting of 20%.[5]


There is evidence of Koreans living in Singapore as early as the 1930s, when their homeland was under Japanese rule. A few Koreans are buried in the pre-World War II cemetery of Singapore's Japanese community.[6]

In the early 2000s, a variety of factors attracted South Korean migration to Singapore, including education, low taxes, and the ease of obtaining permanent residency status.[7] In 2006, the number of Koreans purchasing Singapore real estate jumped by 132% compared to 2005, with many purchasing as owner-occupiers as well as for investment purposes.[8] Following the increase in the Korean population, the number of restaurants and retailers aimed at the community is on the rise, with a majority of these establishments setting up in Tanjong Pagar, within the Central Region of Singapore.[9] This resulted in locals dubbing the Tanjong Pagar area as Korea Town or Little Korea.[10] The increasing popularity of South Korean culture has also led to an increase in South Korean cosmetic brands, food chains and other consumer brands opening stores in Singapore. Food products from South Korea are also increasingly common in local supermarkets, such as NTUC FairPrice, and are no longer found only in specialised Korean supermarkets.[11]

In the late 2010s, the new wave of Korean migration to Singapore consisted mostly of office workers, whom are usually expatriates working in South Korean companies based in the country, business owners and students.[5] Other reasons includes working in the service sector - for positions such as waiters, shop assistants and other service positions. Reasons citied for working in the service line includes the chance to master English, being able to work in a multiracial environment and also Singapore being a safe country.[12] Intermarriages with Singaporeans has also increased, due to the growing Korean population in the country.[13]

South Korea's Andong General Hospital and Singapore's Gleneagles Hospital established a clinic aimed at Koreans in Singapore as well as those living in Malaysia; initially staffed by a single Andong doctor assisted by a number of Korean-speaking attendants, the clinic cost S$200,000 to set up.[14]

North Koreans

Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, moved to Singapore in 2012 after fleeing Macau, and other high ranking North Koreans visit Singapore frequently to receive health care or to purchase luxury goods unavailable in their home country. North Korean defectors state that this relationship is the reason why the official Korean Central News Agency referred to Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew as an "intimate friend" of North Korea.[15] The Singaporean organisation Choson Exchange has also arranged for North Korean university students to obtain business internships in Singapore; under their auspices, two men and three women between the ages of 25 and 39 spent a month working at a business incubator in Singapore in 2013.[16]


Singapore's only school for Korean nationals, the Singapore Korean School, was established on 17 February 1993; as of 2018, it had 450 students at the pre-school, primary, middle and high school levels.[17] It conducts roughly two-thirds of its class hours in Korean, and one-third in English.[18] Its associated weekend school, opened at the same time, enrolled a total of 261 students at the elementary and middle school levels.[19] Despite the challenge they face from the local school system, the Singapore Korean International School still projects rising student numbers, and in 2010 the school moved to a new campus with room for 500 students.

Many Korean students bypass the Korean International School entirely in order to take advantage of English-medium education at government or non-Korean international schools. Singapore has become a popular destination for South Korean students and their parents, who see it as an ideal place to learn both English and Chinese, the two most popular foreign languages in South Korea.[20][21] The Singapore Tourism Board began actively marketing Singaporean education to South Koreans in 2005; they form one of the larger sources of international students, along with other Asian countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.[22] By 2008, Singaporean schools enrolled an estimated 6,500 Korean students.[23] In many cases, mothers come to Singapore with their young school-age children, while the bread-winning father remains behind in South Korea and sends money to support them.[22]

Notable people


  1. ^ a b 재외동포현황(2019)/Total number of overseas Koreans (2019). South Korea: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2019. Retrieved 9 November 2019.
  2. ^ 재외동포현황 [Current Status of Overseas Compatriots] (in Korean). South Korea: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  3. ^ 종교기관 [Religious organisations] (in Korean), Korean Association of Singapore, archived from the original on 22 February 2012, retrieved 19 June 2009
  4. ^ 총괄, 재외동포현황, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 30 September 2013, p. 103, retrieved 30 April 2015
  5. ^ a b "South Koreans in a Global City-State Singapore: Historical Trajectory, Types of Temporal Migration, Future Retrospect". 1 February 2014. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  6. ^ Tsu, Yun-hui Timothy (2002), "Post-mortem identity and burial obligation: on blood relations, place relations, and associational relations in the Japanese community of Singapore" (PDF), in Nakamaki, Hirochika (ed.), The culture of association and associations in contemporary Japanese society, Senri Ethnological Studies, vol. 62, Osaka, Japan: National Museum of Ethnology, pp. 97–111, OCLC 128864303, archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011
  7. ^ "Tax Breaks, Schools Attract S.Koreans to Singapore", The Chosun Ilbo, 17 October 2007, archived from the original on 24 May 2008, retrieved 29 April 2009
  8. ^ Kolesnikov-Jessop, Sonia (26 September 2007), "Singapore drawing more foreign investors", International Herald Tribune, retrieved 3 October 2008
  9. ^ "Tanjong Pagar Korean Restaurants". ladyironchef. 29 July 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
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  11. ^ "Korean brands ride the wave to Singapore". AsiaOne. 9 December 2013. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Service sector in Singapore draws South Korean workers". The Straits Times. 8 September 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Singaporeans couple up with Koreans". The Straits Times. 1 June 2014. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Gleneagles, Andong General set up first Korean clinic here", The Business Times, Singapore, 12 October 2004, retrieved 19 September 2008
  15. ^ "North Korea Sends Condolences For Loss of 'Intimate Friend' Lee Kuan Yew", Radio Free Asia, 25 March 2015, retrieved 11 May 2015
  16. ^ Benner, Tom (June 2013), "Some North Koreans Get Business Internships in Singapore", The Atlantic, retrieved 25 March 2015
  17. ^ Bizwire, Korea. "International School in Singapore Adopts Samsung Flip". Be Korea-savvy. Retrieved 10 November 2021.
  18. ^ 싱가포르한국학교 [Overseas Korean Educational Institutions] (in Korean), National Institute for International Education Development, Republic of Korea, 2005, archived from the original on 30 September 2007, retrieved 13 May 2007
  19. ^ 싱가포르한국학교부설토요학교 [Overseas Korean Educational Institutions] (in Korean), National Institute for International Education Development, Republic of Korea, 2005, archived from the original on 30 September 2007, retrieved 13 May 2007
  20. ^ Shim, Doobo (2006), "Korean Women Television Viewers in Singapore" (PDF), Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia - An International Conference, archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2007, retrieved 13 May 2007
  21. ^ Plate, Tom (23 February 2007), "Woman power in Singapore's Media", AsiaMedia, University of California, Los Angeles, archived from the original on 4 March 2007, retrieved 13 May 2007
  22. ^ a b Lee, Jon Tong (23 January 2008), "S. Koreans sold on an education in Singapore", The Straits Times, retrieved 29 April 2009
  23. ^ "More Koreans enrolling in schools in Singapore", Channel News Asia, 11 February 2008, archived from the original on 12 October 2008, retrieved 3 October 2008
  24. ^ "Ex-Mediacorp actress Jin Yinji got teary as she recounted how she was treated like sh*t". Mothership. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  25. ^ "Teachers called me 'Korean Girl'". www.asiaone.com. Retrieved 30 September 2021.