[News Focus] Jeju has highest proportion of registered foreign residents for 4th year

Of Korea’s 17 areas, Seoul stays at 4th, Sejong at 12th

  • Published : Nov 24, 2020 - 15:49
  • Updated : Nov 24, 2020 - 15:51
Foreigners, wearing traditional costumes of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), pose with Korean traditional cookies at Nammun Market in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province in May 2019. (Korea Tourism Organization)

SEJONG -- The number of foreigners per 1,000 population in South Korea reached the all-time high of 24.53 at the end of 2019, data held by Statistics Korea showed.

The figure was based on the number of registered foreign residents, 1.27 million, of the nation’s resident registered-based population, 51.84 million, as of last year. The figure does not include people in Korea on F-4 visas, because they are not registered as residents here.

The proportion of registered foreign residents climbed about 7 percentage points in a decade from 17.49 percent posted at the end of 2009, when the corresponding two figures were 870,000 of 49.77 million.

Among the nation’s eight major cities and nine provinces, Jeju Province topped the list with 38.35 foreigners per 1,000 inhabitants in 2019 -- 25,600 of 670,000.
(Graphic by Kim Sun-young/The Korea Herald)

South Chungcheong Province ranked second with 33.28 per 1,000 inhabitants, followed by Gyeonggi Province with 31.29, Seoul with 28.97, North Chungcheong Province with 25.45, Incheon with 24.44 and South Gyeongsang Province with 22.64.

In Seoul and neighboring Gyeonggi Province, the figures were 281,000 of 9.72 million and 414,000 of 13.23 million, respectively.

Among the areas with relatively low portion in foreign population were Gwangwon Province (the lowest) at 12.37 per 1,000, Daegu at 12.38, Daejeon at 12.96, Busan at 13.47, Gwangju at 16.36 and Sejong at 16.74.

In 2009, Jeju Province recorded only 9.33 per 1,000, while the nationwide figure was 17.49. Seoul posted the highest portion with 25.05 in the year, followed by Gyeonggi Province with 23.28.

Jeju’s top position among the 17 areas -- since 2016 when the figure reached 30.54 -- was mainly attributed to visas associated with land development across the nation’s largest island by overseas capital, mostly from China over the past decade.

Alongside the influx of Chinese to the province, the attraction of international schools from Canada, the UK and the US in the 2010s, which now make up the Jeju Global Education City in southern Jeju, has also contributed the increase.

South Chungcheong, North Chungcheong, Gyeonggi provinces and Incheon show high portion on the back of foreign workforce at large industrial complexes. A large portion of them came from Southeast Asian countries and China.

Between 2009 and 2019, their percentage has continued to increase on-year with one exception in 2012. But there is a high possibility that the figure for 2020 would drop sharply compared to the previous year in the wake of the novel coronavirus.

Data from the Korea Immigration Service showed that the total number of foreign nationals in the nation stood at 2.11 million as of August. This marked a 16.4 percent drop compared to eight months earlier in December 2019, when the figure reached 2.52 million, mostly due to a drop in short-term visits.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea has still far fewer foreign residents in proportion to its population, compared with other OECD members.

The OECD defines a foreign national as someone who still holds foreign nationality, whether or not they were born in the host country. The France-based organization compared 33 of its 37 members.

The 33 members posted 8.8 percent in the average ratio of foreign residents to total population in 2018 (or whenever the latest available data was posted for specific nations).

Korea placed 26th with the number of foreign residents only 2.2 percent of its total population. The figure appears to have excluded a large number of foreign nationals, given that the total tally for foreigners in Korea surpassed 2 million in 2016 and hovered over 2.5 million in 2019, according to the Korea Immigration Service data.

The figure for Korea, in any case, fell far below those seen in most Western countries.

Luxembourg posted the highest with 48.8 percent, followed by Switzerland with 24 percent, Estonia with 16.3 percent, Austria with 15.9 percent, Latvia with 14.1 percent, Germany with 12.9 percent and Ireland with 12.3 percent.

By Kim Yon-se (
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