|This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (April 2013)|
|Korean Unification Flag|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Korean speakers: 76 million|
|Majority: non-religious and atheist. Large segments of followers of Korean Christianity, Korean Buddhism, Muism (Korean Shamanism), Cheondoism. Background of Korean Confucianism.|
Linguistic and archaeological studies
Koreans are the descendants of the peoples of Korean Peninsula, often said to be Altaic- or proto-Altaic-speaking tribes. Archaeological evidence suggests proto-Koreans were migrants from south-central Siberia who populated ancient Korea in successive waves from the Neolithic age to the Bronze Age. The same tomb style is an indication telling who lived there. The largest concentration of dolmen in the world is found on the Korean peninsula. In fact, with an estimated 35,000 dolmen Korea counts for nearly 40% of the world’s total. Similar dolmens can be found outside of Korea, in Manchuria, Shandong, and Kyushu, yet it is unclear why this culture only flourished so extensively on the Korean peninsula compared to the area of Northeastern Asia.
Studies of polymorphisms in the human Y-chromosome have so far produced evidence to suggest that the Korean people have a long history as a distinct, mostly endogamous ethnic group, with successive waves of people moving to the peninsula and three major Y-chromosome haplogroups.
Korean males display a high frequency of Haplogroup O2b* (P49), a subclade of possibly Manchurian origin, and O3 (M122), a common Y-DNA haplogroup among East Asians in general. Haplogroup O2b* occurs in approximately 14% to 33% of all Korean males, while haplogroup O3 has been found in approximately 40% of sampled Korean males. Korean males also exhibit a moderate frequency of Haplogroup C-M217.
Studies of Korean mtDNA lineages have shown that there is a high frequency of Haplogroup D4, ranging from approximately 23% (11/48) among ethnic Koreans in Arun Banner, Inner Mongolia to approximately 32% (33/103) among Koreans from South Korea. Haplogroup D4 is the modal mtDNA haplogroup among Koreans and among Northeast Asians in general. Haplogroup B, which occurs very frequently in many populations of Southeast Asia, Polynesia, and the Americas, is found in approximately 10% (5/48 ethnic Koreans from Arun Banner, Inner Mongolia) to 20% (21/103 Koreans from South Korea) of Koreans. Haplogroup A has been detected in approximately 7% (7/103 Koreans from South Korea) to 15% (7/48 ethnic Koreans from Arun Banner, Inner Mongolia) of Koreans. Haplogroup A is the most common mtDNA haplogroup among the Chukchi, Eskimo, Na-Dene, and many Amerind ethnic groups of North and Central America.
Sung-Soo Hung of the Department of Biology at Seoul National University found that Mongoloids, including Koreans, were relatively homogenous in 9-bp deletion type of the mtDNA COM/ tRNALys intergenic region and Hung found 16% of Koreans in Seoul (N=175) had this mutation while only 7.8% of Koreans in Cheju (N=38) had this mutation.
A group of Yale University researchers, using 43 autosomal markers selected to maximize difference between East Asian populations, were able to differentiate Koreans from Taiwanese, Hakka, and San Francisco Chinese. The same markers were not able to effectively differentiate Koreans from Japanese, the two groups clustering together in the principal component analysis and in the best least-squares tree. An earlier study done by National University of Singapore concluded that the Koreans are more closely related to the Japanese and quite distant from the Chinese. A study led by Korean researchers found that of the East Asians, the Koreans are the most genetically distant from Africans. In the same study, the Japanese are relatively close to southwest Koreans from the Jeolla regions than to Koreans in the midwest region, while Koreans in the midwest region are close to Manchurian populations.
A recent paper published in 2009 shows Koreans have no Austronesian DNA, whereas the Japanese and Chinese have some Austronesian DNA in their genome. Among the East Asians, Koreans share the least DNA with the Austronesians, while the Han Chinese have the most DNA in common with Austronesians, indicating some interaction between Austronesians and Han Chinese. The Japanese are shown to have slightly more DNA in common with Austronesians than the Koreans.
Distinct regional differences, culturally and politically, exist among the Koreans, as they do among other ethnicities.
Within South Korea, the most important regional difference is between the Yeongnam region, embracing Gyeongsangbuk-do and Gyeongsangnam-do provinces in the southeast, and the Honam region, embracing Jeollabuk-do and Jeollanam-do provinces in the southwest. This regional rivalry is said to reach back to the Three Kingdoms Period, which lasted from the fourth to the seventh century A.D., when the kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla struggled for control of the peninsula.
Observers noted that interregional marriages are rare, as the two areas have been long separated. As of 1990, a new four-lane highway completed in 1984 between Gwangju and Daegu, the capitals of Jeollanam-do and Gyeongsangbuk-do, had limited success in promoting travel between the two areas.
South Korea's political elite, including presidents Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan, and Roh Tae-woo, have come largely from the Yeongnam region. As a result Yeongnam has been a special beneficiary of government development assistance. By contrast, historically the Honam region has remained comparatively rural and undeveloped. Regional social disturbances intensified in the May 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement or 5.18 Democratization Movement, in which about 200 and perhaps many more college students and citizens of the Gwangju were killed by Chun Doo-hwan's troops. They were sent to quell demonstrations of students and citizens against the government and the military regime. Chun Doo-hwan represented the Gwangju Democratization Movement as if it had been infiltrated by communism by controlling the media. The demonstrations against the military regime occurred all over the country, but only Gwangju was heavily damaged in retaliation. Because the Saenuri (New Frontier Party) stems from the military regime, the people of Honam don't vote for Saenuri in most elections.
Regional stereotypes, like regional dialects, interlocking sleeves have been breaking down under the influence of centralized education, nationwide media, and the several decades of population movement since the Korean War. Stereotypes remain important, however, in the eyes of many South Koreans. For example, the people of Gyeonggi-do, surrounding Seoul, are described as being cultured, and Chungcheong people, inhabiting the region embracing Chungcheongbuk-do and Chungcheongnam-do provinces, are thought to be mild-mannered, manifesting true yangban virtues. The people of Gangwon-do in the northeast were viewed as farmers in a rural, countryside area, while Koreans from the northern provinces of Pyongan, Hwanghae, and Hamgyong, now in North Korea, are perceived as being diligent and aggressive. Jeju-do is known for its strong-minded and independent women.
North Korea and South Korea share a common heritage, but the political division since 1945 has resulted in some divergence of modern culture.
North Korean data
Estimating the size, growth rate, sex ratio, and age structure of North Korea's population has been extremely difficult. Until release of official data in 1989, the 1963 edition of the North Korea Central Yearbook was the last official publication to disclose population figures. After 1963 demographers used varying methods to estimate the population. They either totaled the number of delegates elected to the Supreme People's Assembly (each delegate representing 50,000 people before 1962 and 30,000 people afterward) or relied on official statements that a certain number of persons, or percentage of the population, was engaged in a particular activity. Thus, on the basis of remarks made by President Kim Il Sung in 1977 concerning school attendance, the population that year was calculated at 17.2 million persons. During the 1980s, health statistics, including life expectancy and causes of mortality, were gradually made available to the outside world.
In 1989 the Central Statistics Bureau released demographic data to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) in order to secure the UNFPA's assistance in holding North Korea's first nationwide census since the establishment of the state in 1948. Although the figures given to the United Nations might have been distorted, it appears that in line with other attempts to open itself to the outside world, the North Korean regime has also opened somewhat in the demographic realm. Although the country lacks trained demographers, accurate data on household registration, migration, and births and deaths are available to North Korean authorities. According to the United States scholar Nicholas Eberstadt and demographer Brian Ko, vital statistics and personal information on residents are kept by agencies on the ri ("village", the local administrative unit) level in rural areas and the dong ("district" or "block") level in urban areas.
Large-scale emigration from Korea began as early as the mid-1860s, mainly into the Russian Far East and Northeast China or what was historically known as Manchuria; these populations would later grow to nearly three million Koreans in China and several hundred thousand Koryo-saram (ethnic Koreans in Central Asia). During the Colonial Korea of 1910–1945, Koreans were often recruited and or forced into labour service to work in mainland Japan, Karafuto Prefecture, and Manchukuo; the ones who chose to remain in Japan at the end of the war became known as Zainichi Koreans, while the roughly 40 thousand who were trapped in Karafuto after the Soviet invasion are typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans. Korean emigration to America was known to have begun as early as 1903, but the Korean American community did not grow to a significant size until after the passage of the Immigration Reform Act of 1965; as of 2007, roughly 2 million Koreans emigrants and people of Korean descent live in the United States.
The Los Angeles and New York City metropolitan areas in the United States contain the largest populations of ethnic Koreans outside of Korea or China. Significant Korean populations are present in China, Japan, and Canada as well. There are also Korean communities in Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. During the 1990s and 2000s, the number of Koreans in the Philippines and Koreans in Vietnam have also grown significantly. Koreans in the United Kingdom now form Western Europe's largest Korean community, albeit still relatively small; Koreans in Germany used to outnumber those in the UK until the late 1990s. In Australia the Korean Australian community comprise a modest minority. Koreans have migrated significantly since the 1960s. Now they form an integral part in society especially in Business, Education and Cultural areas.
The Korean population in the United States is a small share of the US economy, but it has a disproportionately favorable impact. Korean Americans have a savings rate double that of the average American and also graduate from college at a rate double that of the average American, providing a highly skilled and educated addition to the U.S. workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Census 2000 data, mean household earnings for Koreans in the U.S. were $59,981, approximately 5.1% higher than the U.S. average of $56,604.
A South Korean woman dressed as a Joseon Dynasty queen
A traditional-style Korean wedding in November 2006
Museum display of a family in traditional Korean dress during the Joseon Dynasty
Museum display of traditional Korean wedding scene during the Joseon Dynasty
- Demographics of North Korea
- Demographics of South Korea
- Korean diaspora
- List of Korea-related topics
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Library of Congress Country Studies.
- 서의식 and 강봉룡. 뿌리 깊은 한국사, 샘이 깊은 이야기: 고조선, 삼국, ISBN 89-8133-536-2
- Barnes, Gina. The Rise of Civilization in East Asia: the Archaeology of China, Korea and Japan, ISBN 0-500-27974-8
- Korean American Museum
- Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan)