Koreans in Singapore

Koreans in Singapore
Total population
19,450 (2015)[1][2]
Korean, English, Chinese
Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism[3]
Related ethnic groups
Korean diaspora

Koreans in Singapore consist mainly of South Korean expatriates. The community formed a population of 19,450 individuals as of 2015, according to the South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, making them the world's 17th-largest Korean diaspora community.[1] Their population has grown by about 60% since 2007.[4]


There is evidence of Koreans living in Singapore as early as the 1930s, when their homeland was under Japanese rule. A few Koreans are buried in the pre-World War II cemetery of Singapore's Japanese community.[5]

In the early 2000s, a variety of factors attracted South Korean migration to Singapore, including education, low taxes, and the ease of obtaining permanent residency status.[6] In 2006, the number of Koreans purchasing Singapore real estate jumped by 132% compared to 2005, with many purchasing as owner-occupiers as well as for investment purposes.[7] Following the increase in the Korean population, the number of restaurants and retailers aimed at the community is on the rise, and now includes two ddeok shops.[8][9] South Korea's Andong General Hospital and Singapore's Gleneagles Hospital established a clinic aimed at Koreans in Singapore as well as those living in Malaysia; initially staffed by a single Andong doctor assisted by a number of Korean-speaking attendants, the clinic cost SG$200,000 to set up.[10]

Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, moved to Singapore in 2012 after fleeing Macau, and other high ranking North Koreans visit Singapore frequently to receive health care or to purchase luxury goods unavailable in their home country. North Korean defectors state that this relationship is the reason why the official Korean Central News Agency referred to Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew as an "intimate friend" of North Korea.[11] The Singaporean organisation Choson Exchange has also arranged for North Korean university students to obtain business internships in Singapore; under their auspices, two men and three women between the ages of 25 and 39 spent a month working at a business incubator in Singapore in 2013.[12]


Singapore's only school for Korean nationals, the Singapore Korean School, was established on 17 February 1993; As of 2005, it had 15 teachers and enrolled 100 students at the elementary school level. It conducts roughly two-thirds of its class hours in Korean, and one-third in English.[13] Its associated weekend school, opened at the same time, enrolled a total of 261 students at the elementary and middle school levels.[14] Despite the challenge they face from the local school system, the Korean International School still projects rising student numbers, and in 2010 plans to move to a new campus with room for 500 students, five times as many as their current facilities.[15]

Many Korean students bypass the Korean International School entirely in order to take advantage of English-medium education at government or non-Korean international schools. Singapore has become a popular destination for South Korean students and their parents, who see it as an ideal place to learn both English and Chinese, the two most popular foreign languages in South Korea.[16][17] The Singapore Tourism Board began actively marketing Singaporean education to South Koreans in 2005; they form one of the larger sources of international students, along with other Asian countries such as China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam.[18] By 2008, Singaporean schools enrolled an estimated 6,500 Korean students.[15] In many cases, mothers come to Singapore with their young school-age children, while the bread-winning father remains behind in South Korea and sends money to support them.[18]


  1. 1 2 "총괄", 재외동포현황, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2015-09-18, p. 17, retrieved 2016-07-06
  2. 재외동포현황/Current Status of Overseas Compatriots. South Korea: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-30.
  3. 종교기관/Religious organisations, Korean Association of Singapore, retrieved 2009-06-19
  4. "총괄", 《재외동포현황》, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2013-09-30, p. 103, retrieved 2015-04-30
  5. Tsu, Yun-hui Timothy (2002), "Post-mortem identity and burial obligation: on blood relations, place relations, and associational relations in the Japanese community of Singapore", in Nakamaki, Hirochika, The culture of association and associations in contemporary Japanese society (PDF), Senri Ethnological Studies, 62, Osaka, Japan: National Museum of Ethnology, pp. 97–111, OCLC 128864303, archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2011
  6. "Tax Breaks, Schools Attract S.Koreans to Singapore", The Chosun Ilbo, 2007-10-17, archived from the original on 2008-05-24, retrieved 2009-04-29
  7. Kolesnikov-Jessop, Sonia (26 September 2007), "Singapore drawing more foreign investors", International Herald Tribune, retrieved 2008-10-03
  8. Dadds, Kimberley; Franco, Michael (18 August 2008), "Minority Report", Time out Singapore, archived from the original on 2008-11-19, retrieved 2008-10-03
  9. Eu, Geoffrey (26 November 2005), "Korean cakes rice to the occasion", The Business Times, Singapore, archived from the original on 26 September 2008, retrieved 3 October 2008
  10. "Gleneagles, Andong General set up first Korean clinic here", The Business Times, Singapore, 12 October 2004, retrieved 2008-09-19
  11. "North Korea Sends Condolences For Loss of 'Intimate Friend' Lee Kuan Yew", Radio Free Asia, 2015-03-25, retrieved 2015-05-11
  12. Benner, Tom (June 2013), "Some North Koreans Get Business Internships in Singapore", The Atlantic, retrieved 2015-03-25
  13. Overseas Korean Educational Institutions: 싱가포르한국학교, National Institute for International Education Development, Republic of Korea, 2005, archived from the original (– Scholar search) on 2007-09-30, retrieved 2007-05-13
  14. Overseas Korean Educational Institutions: 싱가포르한국학교부설토요학교, National Institute for International Education Development, Republic of Korea, 2005, archived from the original on 30 September 2007, retrieved 2007-05-13
  15. 1 2 "More Koreans enrolling in schools in Singapore", Channel News Asia, 11 February 2008, archived from the original on 12 October 2008, retrieved 3 October 2008
  16. Shim, Doobo (2006), "Korean Women Television Viewers in Singapore", Cultural Space and Public Sphere in Asia - An International Conference (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 28 September 2007, retrieved 13 May 2007
  17. Plate, Tom (23 February 2007), "Woman power in Singapore's Media", AsiaMedia, University of California, Los Angeles, archived from the original on 4 March 2007, retrieved 13 May 2007
  18. 1 2 Lee, Jon Tong (2008-01-23), "S. Koreans sold on an education in Singapore", The Straits Times, retrieved 2009-04-29
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