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News Release

Korean Diaspora Makes Sizable Contribution to Korean and U.S. Economies

January 23, 2003

Contact:    Inbom Choi    (202) 328-9000
    Marcus Noland    (202) 328-9000

Washington, DC—About 6 million Koreans, close to 10 percent of the current population of the Korean peninsula, now live and work outside the peninsula around the world. This Korean diaspora is making a positive impact on both the Korean and foreign economies that play host to the overseas Koreans:

  • A doubling of the number of overseas Koreans appears to increase South Korea's exports by 16 percent and imports by 14 percent.
  • Overseas Koreans, especially ethnic Koreans from China, are providing a low-wage labor resource for the homeland.
  • Koreans living in the United States have generated an increase of about 15 to 20 percent in trade between the United States and Korea.
  • A doubling of the Korean immigrant population in the United States would increase US per capita income growth by 0.1 to 0.2 percentage points per year.

These are some of the conclusions of The Korean Diaspora in the World Economy, edited by C. Fred Bergsten and Inbom Choi. This important but little noticed "Korean diaspora" began in 1903 with the migration of Korean laborers to the sugar plantations of Hawaii. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Korean immigration into the United States, and to analyze the Korean diaspora's past and potential future economic impact, the Overseas Koreans Foundation (OKF) and the Institute for International Economics held a major conference in Seoul in October 2002 and are now releasing this volume from the event.

The volume attempts to do three things. First, it places the Korean diaspora in the context of both Korean history and diasporas from other parts of the world. Second, and primarily, it analyzes the impact of overseas Koreans on both the host economies to which they have migrated (mainly the United States, Japan, and China) and the home economy of Korea itself. Third, and much more speculatively, it considers some possible future paths of the diaspora in light of the evolution both of the world economy, especially its further globalization, and of Korea itself, including the North and the South.

The OKF and IIE hope that the October conference and this volume will help expand understanding of the Korean diaspora and the contributions it has made to both Korea and the other countries involved. The Overseas Koreans Foundation hopes that the effort will lead to creating and tightening networking among leaders of the diaspora, and to even greater contributions from it in the future. To that end, the Foundation has created the World Korean Business Network that will initiate a series of activities to promote those objectives.

The Institute for International Economics has devoted extensive attention to Korea throughout its history since 1981. Its recent publications on Korea itself include Free Trade between Korea and the United States? (2001) by Inbom Choi and Jeffrey J. Schott, Avoiding the Apocalypse: The Future of the Two Koreas (2000) by Marcus Noland, Measuring the Costs of Visible Protection in Korea (1996) by Namdoo Kim, and Korea in the World Economy (1993) by Il SaKong. In addition, the Institute has released a number of studies on East Asia more broadly, which include substantial sections on Korea. The studies include, most recently, East Asian Financial Cooperation (2002) by C. Randall Henning and New Regional Trading Arrangements in the Asia Pacific (2001) by Robert Scollay and John P. Gilbert. In addition, a group of public and private leaders from the two countries meet annually, as the Korea-United States 21st Century Council, to address current issues between them and to build personal relationships that will help to further strengthen their relationships.

About the Editors

C. Fred Bergsten has been director of the Institute for International Economics since its creation in 1981. He was also chairman of the Competitiveness Policy Council, which was created by Congress, throughout its existence from 1991 to 1995 and chairman of the APEC Eminent Persons Group throughout its existence from 1993 to 1995. He was assistant secretary for international affairs of the US Treasury (1977-81), assistant for international economic affairs to the National Security Council (1969-71), and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution (1972-76), the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1981), and the Council on Foreign Relations (1967-68). He is author, coauthor, or editor of numerous books on a wide range of international economic issues, including No More Bashing: Building a New Japan-United States Economic Relationship (2001), Whither APEC? The Progress to Date and Agenda for the Future (1997), Global Economic Leadership and the Group of Seven (1996), The Dilemmas of the Dollar (second edition, 1996), Reconcilable Differences? United States-Japan Economic Conflict (1993), Pacific Dynamism and the International Economic System (1993), and America in the World Economy: A Strategy for the 1990s (1988).

Inbom Choi, former visiting fellow at the Institute for International Economics, is chief economist at the Federation of Korean Industries. He was assistant secretary to the president for economic affairs and director of international economic policy in the Office of the President of Korea (1995-96). He has been a research fellow at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy since 1990. He has also been a consultant to the World Bank and a visiting professor at Georgetown University. In 1998 and 1999, he was selected by the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) as one of the Next Generation Leaders of Asia. He is coauthor of Free Trade between Korea and the United States? with Jeffrey J. Schott (2001). He is the author of Competitiveness of Korean Products in the U.S. Market (1993, in Korean), Trade Barriers in Government Procurement Practices of Developed Countries (1992, in Korean), and Effects of FDI on Productivity in the Manufacturing Industries of Korea and Taiwan (1991, in Korean), among others.

About the Overseas Koreans Foundation

The Overseas Koreans Foundation (OKF), based in Seoul, is a nonprofit organization established in October 1997. It encourages networking among the Korean diaspora in the areas of culture and education exchanges throughout the world as well as research focused on the overseas Koreans' agenda. One of its main objectives is to promote business networking among Korean entrepreneurs and to give them ongoing opportunities for their business interaction online as well as offline.

About the Institute

The Institute for International Economics, whose director is C. Fred Bergsten, is the only major research center in the United States that is devoted to global economic policy issues. Its staff of about 50 focus on macroeconomic topics, international money and finance, trade and related social issues, and international investment, and cover all key regions—especially Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The Institute averages one or more publications per month; holds one or more meetings, seminars, or conferences almost every week; and is widely tapped over its popular Web site.