Korea's Foreign Residents Surpass 2 Million Again

  • By Shin Eun-jin, Byun Hee-won, Jang Hyeong-tae

    August 04, 2022 08:32

    The number of foreign residents in Korea has surpassed 2 million again after declining for 15 months due to the coronavirus pandemic. 
    According to the Korea Immigration Service, 2.01 million foreigners live in Korea as of May, rising above the 2 million mark again after falling to 1.95 million last year. The figure peaked at 2.52 million in December 2019. 
    There has been a marked increase in foreigners who work as researchers or developers for venture capital companies. An example is an increase in the number of foreign entrepreneurs who applied for a program supported by the Ministry of SMEs and Start-ups, which has risen from 1,515 in 2017 to 2,653 this year.
    In the past, the bulk of foreigners living and working here were factory and farm laborers, but now a growing number are tech professionals and white-collar workers.
    Oh Jung-eun at Hansung University said, "As Korea's industrial landscape changes, demand for talented foreign workers is increasing, while inviting foreigners into the country will help resolve the chronic low birthrate problem."  
    Foreign workers take part in a meeting at a start-up in Seoul on July 15.
    Computer programmers are another growing foreign demographic. Accelerator Future Play, which helps identify and invest in promising start-ups, hired computer developers from Burundi last year and also has interns from Jakarta and Bandung in Indonesia.
    At e-commerce giant Coupang, 250 of 6,000 employees are foreigners.
    Big conglomerates are also hiring more foreigners. Samsung employs around 500 foreigners, mostly in research and development. Some 146 are Indian, 84 Japanese, 61 Chinese and 49 American. Their cafeteria in Suwon serves Korean, Chinese, Japanese and Indian food, with halal meat.
    Hyundai employs 70 foreigners, often as executives. They include global chief operating officer José Muñoz, who is Spanish, chief creative officer Luc Donckerwolke from Belgium, and product and strategy chief Thomas Schemera from Germany.
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