The Korea Times reports that:
6.08 million Koreans were living overseas as of July 2003, recording a 7.56 percent increase from 2001, according to statistics released by the Foreign Affairs-Trade Ministry recently.
The largest population of overseas Koreans, about 3 million, is in the Asia-Pacific region, with over 2 million in China alone, and nearly 200,000 in Australia and New Zealand. The largest growth in the Americas was in North America, where nearly 2.5 millions Koreans now live. Europe and the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) account for another 600,000 or so. Korean populations actually declined in Japan, South America, the Middle East, and Africa.
I remember attending a talk once by a pair of Korean government-sponsored speakers whose purpose seemed to be to flatter Koreans abroad and enlist their support in Korea’s drive to achieve its rightful place in the universe. A Korean raised in the Soviet Union talked about the disproportionate success of the Korean minority there–second only to the Jews in educational attainment. He even suggested that Koreans were a “chosen people” although he became somewhat defensive about the comment later. The other speaker framed his message in terms of competition with Japan. Korea might lack Japan’s population, its wealth, its resources, and its head start, but it had a secret weapon: its huge population of well-placed Koreans abroad. During the question period, my favorite fearlessly contrarian antinationalist among the Korean graduate students asked the speaker what made him think that Koreans abroad might be willing to be shills for either the Korean government or Korean businesses.