Ethnic Chinese in Korea have existed as a recognizable community for at least 120 years. Most trace their origin back to Shandong province on the east coast of China. Of the first wave of immigrants to come to Korea, the majority in South Korea have since moved to Taiwan or the United States; more than 90% of current Chinese residents came after the reform and opening up of the People's Republic of China.
The number and composition of the Chinese community in North Korea is not well-known; they may be descendants of early immigrants, or more recent expatriate businessmen. One 2000 estimate by a Christian missionary group put their number at 181,900, up from 152,400 a decade previously, and claims that they became largely urbanized after World War II.
Though individual Chinese are recorded on the Korean peninsula as early as the 13th century, with some going on to found Korean clans, mass immigration of Chinese did not begin until the 1880s, when the Qing Dynasty
sent 3,000 soldiers, who were followed by around 40 merchants. By 1910, that number had risen to 12,000, and would more than quintuple to 65,000 during the Japanese colonial era
. The population would remain stable for the next two and a half decades; however, when Park Chung Hee took power in a coup on May 16th, 1961, he began to implement currency reforms and laws which severely harmed the interests of the Chinese community, which spurred an exodus. Incheon
once had the largest Chinese population in Korea, but as the pace of emigration increased, the number diminished. It is estimated that only 26,700 of the old Chinese community now remain live in South Korea; they largely hold Republic of China
nationality. However, in recent years, immigration from mainland China has increased; 356,790 persons of Chinese nationality
have immigrated to South Korea, including 219,000 of ethnic Korean
descent. Most of these new residents live in Seoul
, where there is a Chinese-language primary school in Myeongdong
, as well as a high school in Seodaemun.