Note: My family recently relocated to Seoul, where my wife is working as a foreign correspondent for NPR. This post is the first in an occasional series profiling the peninsula’s demographics and politics.
Korean media reported last week that the number of residents moving to other counties fell to the lowest level since 1962, when the government’s foreign ministry began collecting such data. The reports speculated that South Korea’s relatively healthy economy — the 13th-largest in the world — was prompting residents to stay.
Emigration had been on a sharp rise until 1976 as more and more people had been choosing to live in foreign countries for a better life. The Korean economy underwent fast industrialization in the 1970s after rising from the ashes of the 1950-53 Korean War.
Since then, the number has been declining, and it fell below the 10,000 mark, down to 9,509, for the first time in 2003, the data showed.
The roughly 7 million expatriate Koreans are scattered across the world, but mostly in China, Japan and the United States. This map shows the distribution: