Koreans in Malaysia

Koreans in Malaysia numbered 12,690 individuals as of 2015, making them the 22nd-largest community of overseas Koreans, and the 5th-largest in Southeast Asia.[1]

Koreans in Malaysia
Total population
12,690 (2015)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Kuala Lumpur [2]
 Selangor [2]
 Johor [3]
 Sabah [4]
  • Sri Aman
Korean, English, Malay[7]
Mainly Mahayana Buddhism,[8] Christianity[9] and other minorities
Related ethnic groups
Korean diaspora

Migration history

The history of Koreans in Malaysia goes back almost half a century; Malaysia and South Korea established diplomatic relations in 1960, and in the following decade, when Malaysia faced a shortage of doctors, a number of foreign doctors, including Koreans and Filipinos, were authorised to practise in Malaysia.[10][11] Some construction workers, pilots, and sailors were also sent to the country.[12]

Demography and distribution

Korean shop at Singgah Mata Street, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

The Korean community in Malaysia consist mostly of migrants working in South Korean companies, as well as an increasing number of international students.[13] The number of retirees coming under the Malaysia My Second Home immigration programme has also been increasing.[2] Most Korean residents are concentrated in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, especially in Ampang, where a Koreatown is beginning to sprout.[14] The popularity of Korean dramas in Malaysia has meant an increasingly friendly reception for Korean migrants by local people.[13] Real estate investment is another factor drawing Koreans to migrate to Malaysia, due to the taxes imposed on people who own more than two properties in Korea; Malaysia is the second most popular market for overseas real estate investment by Koreans, after the United States.[2]

Around 200,000 South Korean tourists came to Malaysia in 2006; Kota Kinabalu was their most popular destination.[11] About 1,800 to 2,000 Koreans reside in Sabah, most of them in Kota Kinabalu.[4] Sabah Oil and Gas Terminal project in Kimanis, Papar has brought South Korean employees of Samsung Engineering to work and live there until the terminal completion in December 2013.[15]

There were also some North Koreans working in Sarawak in the mine industry.[5] This was revealed after a tragedy that killed one and injuring seven others North Koreans in 2014.[6] By September 2017, the state Immigration Department has confirmed there is no more North Koreans working in Sarawak with the coal mine also had stopped their operation.[16]


Roughly 2,000 of the Koreans in Malaysia are students; Malaysia's multicultural environment offers them the chance to practise English as well as study other languages such as Chinese or Malay; they describe the educational environment as being more relaxed than in Korea. Korean churches form an important part of their social life.[7][9] Their parents also prefer Malaysia to other countries for several reasons. The low cost of living and education in Malaysia is a major pull factor; Parents also believe Malaysia offers a better environment for English study than neighbouring countries. A representative from one Seoul company which helps to arrange overseas study for local students estimated that 90% of Korean students going to Southeast Asia choose Malaysia as their destination. However, some international schools have stopped accepting Korean students because they have become too large a proportion of their student bodies.[13] In many cases, mothers come to Malaysia with their young school-age children, while the breadwinning father remains behind in South Korea and sends money to support them.[17]

Malaysia's first officially registered weekend school for Korean nationals, the Malaysia Korean School, was established on 7 December 1974; it had 26 teachers and enrolled 148 students as of 2006. It was located on Jalan Ampang in Kuala Lumpur.[18] The first day school for Korean families, the Korean School of Malaysia, opened in Cyberjaya in 2016.[19]

See also


  1. 재외동포현황 총계(2015)/Total number of overseas Koreans (2015). South Korea: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2015. Retrieved 30 March 2014.
  2. Phoon, Zoe (26 November 2007), "'Hwan Young Hap Ni Da'", New Straits Times, retrieved 1 January 2008
  3. "Low costs and taxes make Southeast Asia very attractive", JoongAng Daily, 3 November 2019, retrieved 26 October 2022
  4. "Brisk business at Korea Fair", New Sabah Times, 28 September 2009, retrieved 21 December 2009
  5. Sharon Ling; Stephen Then; Yu Ji; Andy Chua; Neville Spykerman (24 November 2014). "N. Koreans working in S'wak legally". The Star (Malaysia). Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  6. Kate Hodal (24 November 2014). "North Koreans are needed to do the dangerous jobs, says Malaysia". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 12 April 2016.
  7. "Great chance to mix", The Star, 16 July 2006, retrieved 2 May 2007
  8. "Korean Buddhist congregations in Malaysia", World Buddhist Directory, Buddha Dharma Education Association, 2006, retrieved 9 March 2009
  9. Tan, Ee Loo (16 July 2006). "Feeling at home in Malaysia". The Star. Malaysia. Retrieved 4 May 2007.
  10. Henderson, John William (1970), Area Handbook for Malaysia, American University, p. 151, OCLC 154312
  11. Ariffin, Roslan (8 March 2007). "Najib Dijangka Kukuhkan Hubungan Dua Hala M'sia-Korea Selatan (Najib plans strong Malaysia-South Korea bilateral relations)". Bernama. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2007.
  12. Bonacich, Edna; Light, Ivan (1991), Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965–1982, United States: University of California Press, pp. 104, ISBN 0-520-07656-7
  13. Kim, Hyun (31 January 2007). "Malaysia emerging as destination for Korean students seeking global education". Yonhap News. Archived from the original on 31 March 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2007.
  14. Rhee, Hyun Ah (18 December 2006). "Koreans find green pastures in Ampang". Malaysiakini. Archived from the original on 24 January 2007. Retrieved 4 May 2007.
  15. Samsung Engineering officially signs the Sabah Oil & Gas Terminal Project, Samsung Engineering, 18 October 2010, archived from the original on 18 February 2013, retrieved 12 June 2012
  16. Adib Povera (21 September 2017). "All North Koreans in Sarawak have been sent back". New Straits Times. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  17. Lim, Yun-suk (17 February 2009), "Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Weakening Korean won forces South Koreans to give up overseas plans", Channel News Asia, retrieved 29 April 2009
  18. "Overseas Korean Educational Institutions". International Institute for Education Development, Republic of Korea. 2006. 재말레이시아한인학교. Archived from the original on 8 January 2008. Retrieved 31 December 2009.
  19. "Malaysia's first Korean school to open in September". Yonhap News. 27 May 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2018.

Further reading

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