The Korean people (Korean: 한민족(éŸ"æ°'族) or 조선민족(朝鮮æ°'族) , see names of Korea) are a historic people based in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. In the last century and a half, the 7 million people of the Korean diaspora have spread along the Pacific Rim, especially to China, Japan and the United States.


South Koreans refer to themselves as Hanguk-in (Korean: 한국인; Hanja: éŸ"國人), or simply Han-in (Korean: 한인; Hanja: éŸ"人; literally "great people"), or they refer themselves as Hanguk-saram (Korean: 한국 사람).

North Koreans refer to themselves as Chosŏn-in (Korean: 조선인span>; Hanja: 朝鮮人) or Chosŏn-saram (Korean: 조선 사람), both of which literally mean "Joseon people". Using similar words, Koreans in China refer to themselves as Chaoxianzu (Chinese: 朝鲜族) in Chinese or Joseonjok (Hangul: 조선족) in Korean, which are cognates that literally mean "Joseon ethnos".

Ethnic Koreans living in Central Asia refer to themselves as Koryo-saram (Korean: ê³ ë ¤ 사람; Cyrillic: КорÑ' сарам), alluding to Goryeo, a Korean dynasty spanning from 918 to 1392.



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 70% of the world's total. Similar dolmens can be found outside of Korea, in Manchuria, Shandong Peninsula, and Kyushu, yet it is unclear why this culture only flourished so extensively on the Korean peninsula compared to the area of Northeastern Asia.

Genetic studies

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.

Y-DNA haplogroups

Korean males display a high frequency of Haplogroup O2b (P49), a subclade that probably has spread mainly from somewhere in the Korean Peninsula or its vicinity, and O3 (M122), a common Y-DNA haplogroup among East Asians in general. Haplogroup O2b occurs in approximately 30% (ranging from 20% to 37%) of all Korean males, while haplogroup O3 has been found in approximately 40% of sampled Korean males. Korean males also exhibit a moderate frequency (approximately 15%) of Haplogroup C-M217.

Korean males sporadically show Haplogroup D-M174 (0/216 = 0.0% DE-YAP, 1/68 = 1.5% DE-YAP(xE-SRY4064), 8/506 = 1.6% D1b-M55, 3/154 = 1.9% DE, 5/164 = 3.0% D-M174, 1/75 D1b*-P37.1(xD1b1-M116.1) + 2/75 D1b1a-M125(xD1b1a1-P42) = 3/75 = 4.0% D1b-P37.1, 3/45 = 6.7% D-M174), with a mean frequency of about 2%. The D1b-M55 subclade has been found with maximal frequency in a small sample (n=16) of the Ainu of Japan, and is generally frequent throughout the Japanese Archipelago. Other haplogroups that have been found less commonly in samples of Korean males are Y-DNA N (approx. 4%), O1 (approx. 3%), O2(xO2b) (approx. 2%), Q and R (approx. 2% total), J, Y*(xA, C, DE, J, K), L, C-RPS4Y(xM105, M38, M217), and C-M105.

mtDNA haplogroups

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.

The other half of the Korean mtDNA pool consists of an assortment of various haplogroups, each found with relatively low frequency, such as G, N9, Y, F, D5, M7, M8, M9, M10, M11, R11, C, and Z.

Autosomal studies

The distribution of Y-chromosomal variation from the 12 Y-SNP and 17 Y-STR markers was determined in six major provinces (Seoul-Gyeonggi, Gangwon, Chungcheong, Jeolla, Gyeongsang, and Jeju) to evaluate these populations’ possible genetic structure and differentiation in Korea. As part of the present study, a 10-plex SNaPshot assay and two singleplex SNaPshot assays were developed. Based on the result of 12 Y-SNP markers (M9, M45, M89, M119, M122, M174, M175, M214, RPS4Y, P31, SRY465, and 47z), almost 78.9% of tested samples belonged to haplogroup O-M175 (including its subhaplogroups O3-M122: 44.3%, O2b*-SRY465: 22.5%, O2b1-47z: 8.7%), and 12.6% of the tested samples belonged to haplogroup C-RPS4Y. A total of 475 haplotypes were identified using 17 Y-STR markers included in the Yfiler kit, among which 452 (95.2%) were individual-specific. The overall haplotype diversity for the 17 Y-STR loci was 0.9997 and the discrimination capacity was 0.9387. Pairwise genetic distances and AMOVA of the studied Korean provinces reflected no patrilineal substructure in Korea, except for Jeju Island. Thus, this survey shows that the present data of Korean individuals could be helpful to establish a comprehensive forensic reference database for frequency estimation.]

A 2009 genetic study showed that 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.


North Korea and South Korea share a common heritage, but the political division since 1945 has resulted in some divergence of modern culture.


The language of the Korean people is the Korean language, which uses Hangul as its main writing system. There are more than 78 million speakers of the Korean language worldwide.

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.

Korean diaspora

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 1910â€"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 2010, excluding the undocumented and uncounted, roughly 1.7 million Koreans emigrants and people of Korean descent live in the United States according the official figure by the US Census. A realistic figure is probably well over 2 million.

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.


See also

  • Demographics of North Korea
  • Demographics of South Korea
  • Korean diaspora
  • Koreatown
  • List of Korea-related topics
  • Korean nationality



  •  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: ê³ ì¡°ì„ , 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

External links

  • Korean American Museum
  • Korean Residents Union in Japan (Mindan)

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