The total number of foreign nationals in South Korea fell roughly 4% year on year in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Korea Immigration Office.
As of the end of the year, the number was 1.96 million, down 3.9 percent from 2.04 million in 2020 and down 23% from a record high of 2.52 million in 2019.
The number includes 1.57 million foreign nationals in South Korea who are long-term residents and 386,000 people who stayed for not more than 90 days. Its data revealed.
Foreign nationals in South Korea dropped below 2 million
It’s the first time since 2016 that the immigrant population has dropped below 2 million.
The drop in international arrivals owing to COVID-19, which initially affected the country in early 2020, is to blame for the downturn, according to the office.
With 840,000 people, Chinese made up 43 percent of the total number, including 614,000 ethnic Koreans. With 208,000 people, the Vietnamese came in second, followed by Thais (171,000) and Americans (140,000).
Gyeonggi Province, with 360,000 foreign residents, was the most populous, followed by the capital city of Seoul with 226,000, Incheon with 66,000, and South Gyeongsang Province with 63,000.
Last year, 13,636 immigrants were granted Korean citizenship out of a total of 21,160 applications, including 5,145 Chinese and 4,225 Vietnamese.
According to statistics, approximately 2,340 people applied for refugee status, with 72 being accepted, bringing the total number of refugees to 1,163 since 1994.
At the end of 2021, there were 388,000 undocumented immigrants, down 0.9 percent from 392,000 the previous year.
80 percent of foreign nationals have positive review about South Korea
According to a government study released Monday, eight out of ten foreigners living in and outside of South Korea had a favorable opinion of the country.
In September, the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS) polled 12,500 non-Koreans aged 16 and up in 24 countries across the world, finding that 80.5 percent of those polled held a favorable impression of South Korea.
The percentage was up 2.4 percentage points from a year ago in the same survey.
90 percent of those polled in seven nations offered favorable responses: Vietnam (95 percent), Turkey (92.2 percent), the Philippines (92 percent), and Thailand (90.8 percent). For the first time since the annual poll began in 2018, 35 percent of Japanese respondents identified a good image, up from 27.6% in 2020 and surpassing the proportion of Japanese with unfavorable impressions (26.6%).
Nearly 23% of foreigners with positive perceptions of South Korea cite contemporary culture, such as K-pop and films, as the primary motivators, while others cite Korean brands and products (13.2%), economic status (10.2%), cultural heritage (9.5%), Korea’s national character (8.6%), social system (7.8%), and sports (7.6%), among others.
Last year, the rates of replies — “social system,” “national character,” and “sports” — increased by 5.9 percentage points, 5.8 percentage points, and 4.6 percentage points, respectively, as compared to the previous poll performed in 2020.
The most popular response to the eight questions concerning foreigners’ interest in Korea was “hope to experience Korean traditional culture,” which received 83.4 percent of the votes. It was followed by 81.1 percent for “hope to visit Korea” and 76.6 percent for “hope to be friends with Koreans.” In instance, 54.5 percent answered “hope to learn Korean language,” an increase of 8.7 percentage points from 2020, while responses like “experiencing hallyu content” and “want to visit Korea” climbed to 6.7 and 6.5 percentage points, respectively, from a year ago.
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