History of immigration from South Korea

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Map of South Korea
Map date: 2013
Few Koreans settled in Victoria until the late 1960s, when Australia began to relax its White Australia Policy. By 1971, the number of Koreans in Victoria was still only 72 –including immigrants from both the South and North of Korea. Most had not migrated directly from Korea, but from countries such as Indonesia, Brazil and South Vietnam, where they were foreign workers. When South Vietnam fell in 1975, many Koreans working for military contract firms moved to Australia under relaxed tourist visa conditions. Some were eventually granted permanent residency under amnesty arrangements. Sponsored migration saw further increases in the community in Victoria.

By 1981, 389 Victorians were Korea-born – counting immigrants from both the South and North of Korea. An increasing number settled in Victoria during the 1980s, predominantly under the skilled and business migration categories. By 1991, when immigrants from South Korea were finally counted separately in the census, 1,544 were recorded in Victoria.

The 2011 census recorded 10,192 Victorians born in South Korea. Today they live throughout Victoria, with a higher number in Melbourne’s south-east. 87% speak Korean at home. Almost half of those employed are professionals or managers; many others work in clerical, sales and service roles. Families often work together in businesses, and pool capital to purchase homes.

60% of South Korea-born Victorians are Christian. Korean churches are seen by many members as a focal point of Korean culture, maintaining traditions through dance, language and cuisine, and assisting new immigrants arriving in Victoria. Korean culture is further strengthened by the activities of the Korean Society of Victoria, Saturday Korean language schools, Korean language broadcasts on SBS, and several Korean magazines and newspapers.

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