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South Koreans in traditional costume
|c. 83 million|
|Regions with significant populations|
| South Korea 50,423,955 (2014 estimate) |
North Korea 25,300,000 (2014 estimate)
Diaspora as of 2017[update]
c. 7–7.43 million
|United Arab Emirates||10,852|
|Mostly irreligious or folk religion. |
Minorities: Christianity (predominantly Protestantism), Korean Buddhism, Korean shamanism, and Cheondoism.
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Koreans (Hangul: 한민족; Hanja: 韓民族; RR: Hanminjok in South Korean; alternatively Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선민족, 조선사람, 조선인; Hancha: 朝鮮民族, 朝鮮사람, 朝鮮人; RR: Joseonminjok, Joseonsaram, Joseonin in North Korean, lit. "Korean race"; see names of Korea) are an East Asian ethnic group originating from and native to the Korean Peninsula and southern Manchuria.
Koreans mainly live in the two Korean nation states, South Korea and North Korea (collectively referred to simply as Korea), but are also an officially recognized ethnic minority in China, Vietnam, Japan and Philippines, plus a number of former Soviet states, such as Russia and Uzbekistan. Over the course of the 20th century, significant Korean communities have emerged in Oceania and North America.
South Koreans refer to themselves as Hanguk-in (Hangul: 한국인; Hanja: 韓國人), or Hanguk-saram (Hangul: 한국 사람), both of which mean "Korean nation people." When referring to members of the Korean diaspora, Koreans often use the term Han-in (Hangul: 한인; Hanja: 韓人; literally "Korean people").
North Koreans refer to themselves as Joseon-in (Hangul: 조선인; Hanja: 朝鮮人) or Joseon-saram (Hangul: 조선 사람), both of which literally mean "Joseon people". The term is derived from the Joseon dynasty, a Korean kingdom founded by Yi Seonggye that lasted for approximately five centuries from 1392 to 1910. Using similar words, Koreans in China refer to themselves as Chaoxianzu (Chinese: 朝鲜族) in Chinese or Joseonjok, Joseonsaram (Hangul: 조선족, 조선사람) in Korean, which are cognates that literally mean "Joseon ethnic group". Zainichi Koreans refer to themselves as Zainichi Chousenjin, Chousenjin (Japanese: 在日朝鮮人, 朝鮮人) in Japanese or Jaeil Joseonin, Joseonsaram, Joseonin (Hangul: 재일조선인, 조선사람, 조선인) in Korean
Koreans are the descendants or an admixture of the ancient people who settled in the Korean Peninsula, historically said to be Siberian or paleo-Asian. Archaeological evidence suggests that proto-Koreans were migrants from Manchuria during the Bronze Age. It is noteworthy to mention that there were already people living on the Korean peninsula from the Paleolithic age and Neolithic age, and thus it is logical to assume that there was intermingling between these populations.
Linguistic evidence indicates speakers of proto-Korean languages were established in southeastern Manchuria and northern Korean peninsula by the Three Kingdoms of Korea period, and migrated from there to southern Korea during this period.
The largest concentration of dolmens in the world is found on the Korean Peninsula. In fact, with an estimated 35,000-100,000 dolmen, Korea accounts for nearly 70% of the world's total. Similar dolmens can be found in Manchuria, the Shandong Peninsula and the Kyushu island, yet it is unclear why this culture only flourished so extensively on the Korean Peninsula and its surroundings compared to the bigger remainder of Northeastern Asia.
Stephen Pheasant (1986), who taught anatomy, biomechanics and ergonomics at the Royal Free Hospital and the University College, London, said that Far Eastern people have proportionately shorter lower limbs than Europeans and Black Africans. Pheasant said that the proportionately short lower limbs of Far Eastern people is a difference that is most characterized in Japanese people, less characterized in Korean and Chinese people, and the least characterized in Vietnamese and Thai people.
In a craniometric study, Pietrusewsky (1994) found that the Japanese series, which was a series that spanned from the Yayoi period to modern times, formed a single branch with Korea. Later, Pietrusewsky (1999) found, however, that Korean and Yayoi people were very highly separated in the East Asian cluster, indicating that the connection that Japanese have with Korea would not have derived from Yayoi people.
Park Dae-kyoon et al. (2001) said that distance analysis based on thirty-nine non-metric cranial traits showed that Koreans are closer craniometrically to Kazakhs and Mongols than Koreans are close craniometrically to the populations in China and Japan.
Studies of polymorphisms in the human Y-chromosome have so far produced evidence to suggest that the Korean people have a long history as a distinct, mostly endogamous ethnic group, with successive waves of people moving to the peninsula and three major Y-chromosome haplogroups. The reference population for Koreans used in Geno 2.0 Next Generation is 94% Eastern Asia and 5% Southeast Asia & Oceania.
Korea Foundation Associate Professor of History, Eugene Y. Park said that many Koreans seem to have a genealogical memory blackout before the twentieth century. Park said that the vast majority Koreans do not know their actual genealogical history. Park said that, through "inventing tradition" in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, families devised a kind of master narrative story that purports to explain a surname-ancestral seat combination's history to the extent where it is next to impossible to look beyond these master narrative stories. Park gave an example of what "inventing tradition" was like from his own family's genealogy where a document from 1873 recorded three children in a particular family and a later 1920 document recorded an extra son in that same family. Park said that these master narratives connect the same surname and ancestral seat to a single, common ancestor. Park said that this trend became universal in the nineteenth century, but genealogies which were published in the seventeenth century actually admit that they did not know how the different lines of the same surname or ancestral seat are related at all. Park said that only a small percentage of Koreans had surnames and ancestral seats to begin with, and Park said that the rest of the Korean population had adopted these surname and ancestral seat identities within the last two to three hundred years.
North Korea and South Korea share a common heritage, but the political division since 1945 has resulted in some divergence of their modern cultures.
Estimating the size, growth rate, sex ratio, and age structure of North Korea's population has been extremely difficult. Until release of official data in 1989, the 1963 edition of the North Korea Central Yearbook was the last official publication to disclose population figures. After 1963 demographers used varying methods to estimate the population. They either totalled the number of delegates elected to the Supreme People's Assembly (each delegate representing 50,000 people before 1962 and 30,000 people afterwards) or relied on official statements that a certain number of persons, or percentage of the population, was engaged in a particular activity. Thus, on the basis of remarks made by President Kim Il-sung in 1977 concerning school attendance, the population that year was calculated at 17.2 million persons. During the 1980s, health statistics, including life expectancy and causes of mortality, were gradually made available to the outside world.
In 1989 the Central Bureau of Statistics released demographic data to the United Nations Population Fund in order to secure the UNFPA's assistance in holding North Korea's first nationwide census since the establishment of the state in 1948. Although the figures given to the United Nations might have been distorted, it appears that in line with other attempts to open itself to the outside world, the North Korean regime has also opened somewhat in the demographic realm. Although the country lacks trained demographers, accurate data on household registration, migration, and births and deaths are available to North Korean authorities. According to the United States scholar Nicholas Eberstadt and demographer Brian Ko, vital statistics and personal information on residents are kept by agencies on the ri ("village", the local administrative unit) level in rural areas and the dong ("district" or "block") level in urban areas.
Large-scale emigration from Korea began as early as the mid-1860s, mainly into the Russian Far East and Northeast China or what was historically known as Manchuria; these populations would later grow to more than two million Koreans in China and several hundred thousand Koryo-saram (ethnic Koreans in Central Asia and the former USSR). During the Korea under Japanese rule of 1910–1945, Koreans were often recruited and or forced into labour service to work in mainland Japan, Karafuto Prefecture, and Manchukuo; the ones who chose to remain in Japan at the end of the war became known as Zainichi Koreans, while the roughly 40 thousand who were trapped in Karafuto after the Soviet invasion are typically referred to as Sakhalin Koreans.
Korean emigration to America was known to have begun as early as 1903, but the Korean American community did not grow to a significant size until after the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965; as of 2017, excluding the undocumented and uncounted, roughly 1.85 million Koreans emigrants and people of Korean descent live in the United States according to the official figure by the US Census.
The Greater Los Angeles Area and New York metropolitan area in the United States contain the largest populations of ethnic Koreans outside of Korea or China. Significant Korean populations are present in China, Japan, and Canada as well. There are also Korean communities in Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. During the 1990s and 2000s, the number of Koreans in the Philippines and Koreans in Vietnam have also grown significantly. Koreans in the United Kingdom now form Western Europe's largest Korean community, albeit still relatively small; Koreans in Germany used to outnumber those in the UK until the late 1990s. In Australia, Korean Australians comprise a modest minority. Koreans have migrated significantly since the 1960s. Now they form an integral part in society especially in Business, Education and Cultural areas.
The Korean population in the United States represents a small share of the US economy, but has a disproportionately positive impact. Korean Americans have a savings rate double that of the average American and also graduate from college at a rate double that of the average American, providing a highly skilled and educated addition to the U.S. workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's Census 2000 data, mean household earnings for Koreans in the U.S. were $59,981, approximately 5.1% higher than the U.S. average of $56,604.
Pak Noja said that there were 5747 Japanese-Korean mixed couples in Korea at the end of 1941. Pak Cheil estimated there to be 70,000 to 80,000 "semi-Koreans" in Japan in the years immediately after the war.
Korean children in traditional costume
Women in traditional costume
South Korean woman dressed as a Joseon queen
Young Korean man of the middle class, 1904
In a 2002 report ... the government reported there were 12,000 Protestants, 10,000 Buddhists, and 800 Roman Catholics. The report noted that Cheondoism, a modern religious movement based on 19th century Korean neo-Confucian movement, had approximately 15,000 practitioners. Consulting shamans and engaging in shamanistic rituals is reportedly widespread but difficult to quantify.
According to a 2010 survey, approximately 24 percent of the population is Buddhist; 24 percent Protestant; 8 percent Roman Catholic; and 43 percent professes no religious belief. Followers of all other religious groups ... together constitute less than 1 percent of the population.
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