Country Profile: Republic of Korea (South)

Republic of Korea (south)

Capital City: Seoul

Population, 2010: 48.5 million

Official Language: Korean

Monetary Unit: Korean Won


1. Overview

With a land area less than half that of Victoria and a population of almost 50 million, South Korea has one of the world’s highest population densities. This factor has contributed to a Korean diaspora of around seven million people, most of whom live in either the USA, China or Japan. More recently however, significant numbers of Korean nationals have chosen to live in Australia. The number of South Korea born permanent additions for 2009-10, for example, is over twice as high as a decade earlier.

Sustained high economic growth since the 1960s had led to the country’s transformation into a highly industrialised and internationally competitive economy rising through the ranks to become the 15th largest economy in the world in 2009. South Korea has a relatively high GDP per capita. On a purchasing-power-parity basis it is nearly 75 per cent of Australia’s. While South Korea is wealthy by Asian standards, the state of its economy could still be a significant motivator for migration. South Korea is highly dependent on manufacturing exports, which can be volatile in times of economic uncertainty, such as the economy recently experienced in 2008 due to the global economic crisis.

A summary measure of well being is the Human Development Index (HDI), produced by the United Nations. The HDI is a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: health, education and income. Australia ranks very high on this measure, with a 2010 score of 0.94, second only to Norway. Table 1

In 2010 South Korea’s HDI was 0.88 – giving the country a rank of 12 out of 169 countries. The HDI of East Asia and the Pacific in 2010 was 0.65, placing South Korea well above the regional average.

2. Community in Australia

At the end of June 2009 there were 94 690 South Korea born people living in Australia, 79 per cent more than was reported in the August 2006 Census of Population and Housing. This is equivalent to 1.1 per cent of Australia’s overseas born population and 0.6 per cent of Australia’s total population.
For Australia’s Korea born migrants:

  • The median age of 28.4 years was eight years below that of the general population.
  • Females slightly outnumbered males – 52 per cent compared with 48 per cent.
  • At September 2010 there were 39 200 Korea born people working in Australia, the main occupations were labourers – 20 per cent of workers, followed by managers and professionals – with 19 per cent each.
  • At June 2010 the unemployment rate of 4.2 per cent was below the national rate of 5.2 per cent.*
  • The labour force participation rate was low at 57 per cent compared to the national average of 65 per cent.


3. Permanent Migration and Temporary Entry

Summary, 2009-10

Permanent Additions to the Australian Population*

There were 4393 South Korea born permanent additions to the Australian resident population. Among these new additions:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 69 per cent of all permanent additions and comprised 1218 skilled migrants and 1832 accompanying family members.
  • The Family Stream comprised 1149 family migrants and accounted for 26 per cent of all permanent additions.
  • Non-program migration of South Korea born New Zealand citizens accounted for the remaining 5 per cent of permanent additions.

Permanent Migration Visas Granted, 2009-10*

Table 2

There were 4350 South Korean nationals that were granted a permanent visa through the Migration Program. Among the new permanent visa holders:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 72 per cent (3150 persons) of the permanent visas granted, with employer sponsored migrants accounting for over a third (35 per cent) of the skilled visas granted.
  • The Family Stream accounted for 27 per cent (1174 persons) of the permanent visas granted, with 89 per cent of Family visas granted either to a partner (73 per cent) or parent (16 per cent) of an Australian resident.

Temporary Entry Visas Granted, 2009-10

Table 3 & 4

Of the main temporary entry program visas granted to South Korean nationals:

  • 16 367 Student visas were granted, of which 33 per cent were granted to those enrolled in an undergraduate or postgraduate course and 32 per cent in a Vocational Education and Training course in Australia.
  • 800 South Korean workers were granted a Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa, with Registered Nurses, Marketing Specialists and Cooks the main sponsored occupations.
  • 164 443 Visitor visas were granted.
  • 28 281 Working Holiday Maker visas were granted; with an additional 6589 persons granted a 12 month extension on their initial visa.


Detailed Analysis

Permanent Migration Visas Granted
Tables 2 & 4

Skilled Migration

Skilled migration is focused on facilitating the permanent entry of those who can make a positive contribution to Australia through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurial spirit and future employment potential.

  • In 2009-10, 107 868 skilled visas were granted, with grants to South Korean nationals accounting for 2.9 per cent (3150 grants) of the total, making it 8th as a provider of skilled migrants.
  • Skilled migration remains the main route for South Korean nationals seeking permanent residency in Australia. In 2009-10, the Skilled Program accounted for 72 per cent of all permanent visas granted to South Korean nationals.
  • Reflecting the shift in skilled migration towards, demand-driven entry, there has been substantial growth in the number of employer sponsored visas granted – with numbers increasing from 484 grants (16 per cent of all skilled grants) in 2006-07, to 1102 grants (35 per cent of all skilled grants) in 2009-10.
  • While the national trend saw skilled visas granted drop 6 per cent in 2009-10, for South Korean nationals they fell by 17 per cent. This period coincides with the introduction of priority processing in January 2009.
  • Computing Professionals, Registered Nurses and Accountants were the main occupations among the new General Skilled Migration visa holders.

Family Migration

Family migration facilitates the entry of close family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens. The program is currently dominated by fiancés, partners and dependent children, but also provides options for other family members such as parents, aged dependent relatives, carers and remaining relatives to join family in Australia.

  • In 2009-10, 60 254 Family visas were granted, with grants to South Korean nationals accounting for 1.9 per cent (1174 grants) of the total. Among the South Korean cohort, the largest proportions were granted to the partners and fiancés, making up 75 per cent of the family visas granted.
  • Family visa grants, as a proportion of all permanent visas granted to South Koreans has remained fairly stable, ranging from 18 to 27 per cent of the total – fluctuating in line with peaks and troughs in the skilled component.


Temporary Entry Visas Granted

Tables 3 & 4

International Students

The Student Visa Program consists of a range of visa categories that broadly correspond to education sectors. Students must study with an education provider and in a course registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students.

In 2009-10 there was a reduction in both the number of student visa applications received and the number of visas granted. Reasons included increased competition from overseas markets compounded by the strengthening of the Australian dollar, the introduction of robust student visa integrity measures and changes made to the General Skilled Migration program. While student visa grants fell by over 15 per cent, the total stock of international students in Australia remained relatively unaffected, only decreasing 1.1 per cent in 2009-10.

  • As at June 2010, there were 21 530 South Korean Student visa holders in Australia, representing 6 per cent of all international students in Australia, making South Korea the third largest source country of international students.
  • Behind the USA and Japan, Australia is the third most popular tertiary study destination for international students originating from South Korea. In 2008, 5 per cent of all South Korean international tertiary students chose Australia.
  • In 2009-10, 16 367 South Koreans were granted a Student visa, a 7 percent decrease on the previous year, less than the overall 16 per cent fall in total student visas over the same period.
  • Grants to students enrolled in an undergraduate or postgraduate course accounted for 33 per cent of grants, while a further 32 per cent of visas were granted to those intending on pursuing a Vocational Education and Training course.


Business Long Stay (subclass 457) Workers

The subclass 457 visa program allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign workers for employment in management, professional, technical and skilled trades’ positions. The program is demand-driven and highly responsive to Australian labour market conditions. Statistics shows that the demand for subclass 457 visas increases in line with increased skilled vacancies.

The demand for foreign workers under this program declined following the economic downturn, but application rates steadily increased over the second half of 2009-10. In recent months business conditions have begun to improve and the number of applications lodged has increased.

In 2009-10, 67 980 visas were granted globally, a reduction of 33 per cent on the previous year.

  • In 2009-10, there were 800 subclass 457 visas granted to South Korean workers – a number which was 28 per cent lower than the previous year.
  • Registered Nurses, Marketing Specialists and Cooks were the main occupations for which Australian employers recruited from South Korea.



The vast majority of temporary entrants from South Korea are visitors here for a holiday or a short business visit. In 2009-10, there were 164 443 visitor visas granted to South Korean citizens, making South Korea the fifth largest source of visitors to Australia in this period.

Working Holiday Maker Program

Australia has reciprocal Working Holiday visa arrangements with many countries, including South Korea. Working Holiday visa holders who have completed specified work in an eligible regional Australian area for a minimum of three months while on their first Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa may be eligible for a second Working Holiday visa.

  • Working Holiday Maker arrangements with South Korea commenced on 1 July 1995. South Korea represents Australia’s second largest Working Holiday Maker program (after the UK), with 28 281 new visas granted (and an additional 6589 persons approved to extend their stay in Australia a further 12 months) in 2009-10.

4. Emigration*

Table 5

In 2009-10, 786 South Korea born permanent residents indicated at departure that they were leaving Australia permanently – with almost 70 per cent intending to return to South Korea.

  • Approximately 17 per cent of these emigrants were associate professionals, with a further 15 per cent Professionals.
  • A majority (67 per cent) were emigrating from New South Wales.


5. State and Territory summary

Table 5

New South Wales was the most popular state of residence for Koreans in Australia. At the time of the last Census almost two thirds (63 per cent) of South Korea born migrants lived in New South Wales and the State was also the intended residential location for 41 per cent of new skilled migrants and 56 per cent of new family migrants. South Korean students also showed a preference for New South Wales, with 45 per cent enrolled in an academic institution based in that State, while 6 in 10 subclass 457 workers were sponsored for employment in New South Wales.


Explanatory notes

  1. Unemployment rates for individual migrant countries are calculated from the monthly ABS labour force survey (using published and unpublished data) and have been averaged across six months to account for monthly fluctuations and a small sample size. The national unemployment rate is the seasonally adjusted figure for December 2010.
  2. Permanent Additions are the sum of those granted a permanent residency visa while in Australia, and those granted a visa through an Australian mission abroad, that have entered Australia during the respective reporting period.
  3. Visa grants are the sum of all permanent migration and temporary entry visa applications granted in Australia, through the Australian Government’s online visa portal, and visa grants made at an Australian mission abroad.
  4. Australian residents are Australian citizens residents in Australia and other permanent residents.
  5. General Skilled Migration (GSM) is the sum of total Skilled Family Sponsored, Skilled Independent and State/Territory Sponsored visas.
  6. Emigration is the number of persons who reported on their overseas departure card that they were leaving Australia permanently.


Further reading

This profile was prepared using information and statistics collated by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and commentary extracted from the following publications:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
See:Country, economy and regional information

Department of Immigration and Citizenship

International Monetary Fund
See:Country Information

Central Intelligence Agency
See:World Fact Book 2010

United Nations Development Program
See:Human Development Report 2010

World Bank
See:The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011


Statistical tables – South Korea

Table 1: Economic and Human Development Indicators, 2010

Australia South Korea
Adult Literacy (%) 99.0 97.9
Fertility Rates (children per female) 1.9 1.3
GDP per capita, PPP (current international $) 39 692 29 790
Life Expectancy at birth (years) 81.9 79.8
Mean years of schooling 12 11.6
Human Development Index 0.94 0.88
Median Age (years) 37.8 37.9
Population (millions) 22.3 48.5
Population growth, 2010 (%) 1.7 0.3

* All data (with the exception of adult literacy rates) were sourced from the UNDP Human Development Report 2010. Data on adult literacy was sourced from the CIA World Factbook, due to incomplete country information in the UNDP Report. Australia’s data was sourced from the ABS. Data on GDP per capita from International Monetary Fund, World Economics Outlook Database Oct 2010.
Table 2: Number of persons granted a permanent Australian visa (by nationality), 2006-07 to 2009-10

South Korea 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Skilled Migration
Business Skills 531 736 577 458
Distinguished Talent 23 25 18 13
Employer Sponsored 484 783 1 077 1 102
General Skilled Migration*
  Skilled Family Sponsored 258 479 207 51
  Skilled Independent 1 571 2 056 1 439 991
  State/Territory Sponsored 238 252 489 535
Total – Skilled visa grants 3 105 4 331 3 807 3 150
Skilled visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 77 81 78 72
Family Migration
 Child 79 94 97 84
 Prospective Marriage (fiancé) 24 18 30 25
 Partners 642 706 743 852
 Parent 129 106 182 192
 Preferential/Other Family 52 50 43 21
Total – Family visa grants 926 974 1 095 1 174
Family visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 23 18 22 27
Special Eligibility 19 12 9 23
Total – Permanent Migrants 4 050 5 317 4 911 4 350

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Table 3: Number of persons granted a temporary Australian visa (by nationality), 2006-07 to 2009-10

South Korea 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
International Students
English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students 8 639 6 785 4 969 3 947
Schools 2 433 2 204 1 690 1 399
Vocational and Education Sector (VET) 1 195 5 144 6 059 5 244
Higher education 5 773 4 389 4 405 5 316
Postgraduate 120 104 109 151
Non-Award 391 724 363 310
AusAID or Defence 6 0 0 2
Total – International Student visa grants 18 557 19 350 17 594 16 367
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) 1 330 1 460 1 110 800
eVisitor 234 117 195 763 145 910 158 629
Tourist 2 289 2 252 2 413 2 210
Business Visitor 891 1 485 4 473 3 602
Sponsored Family 4 5 6 2
Total – Visitor visa grants 237 301 199 505 152 802 164 443
Working Holiday Program
Initial 26 269 29 062 33 426 28 281
Extension 2 282 3 570 6 080 6 589
Total 28 551 32 632 39 506 34 870

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Table 4: Main occupations among those granted a permanent (GSM) or temporary (subclass 457) visa, 2006-07 to 2009-10

South Korea Business Long Stay (subclass 457) General Skilled Migration
Temporary Entry (employer sponsored) Permanent Entry (unsponsored)
2009-10 Registered Nurse 60 Computing Professional * 200
Marketing Specialist 20 Registered Nurse 90
Cook 20 Accountant 80
General Manager 10 Aircraft Maintenance Engineer 30
Welder (First Class) 10 Electronics Engineer 40
2008-09 Registered Nurse 60 Cook 200
Chef 30 Computing Professional * 180
Marketing Specialist 30 Accountant 120
General Manager 20 Hairdresser 100
Wall and Floor Tiler 20 Registered Nurse 60
2007-08 Marketing Specialist 60 Cook 270
Cook 40 Accountant 230
Registered Nurse 40 Computing Professional * 160
Welder (First Class) 40 Hairdresser 160
General Manager 30 Pastry Cook 100
2006-07 Welder (First Class) 60 Accountant 250
Registered Nurse 50 Cook 180
Marketing Specialist 40 Hairdresser 120
Cook 30 Registered Nurse 80
Hairdresser 20 Pastry Cook 60

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

* Within the broad professionals field, where no actual classification exists for the specific occupation.
Table 5: National Geographical Distribution, by country of birth and nationality



Proportion of all persons counted in the Census, 2006 33 25 20 8 10 2 1 2
Proportion of all South Korea born counted in the Census, 2006 63 12 14 4 4 1 0 2
Geographical Distribution, Permanent Additions 2009-10
Skill Stream 41 19 18 12 6 1 1 3
Family Stream 56 12 20 3 6 1 1 1
Geographical Distribution, Temporary Entrants 2009-10
International Students 45 18 24 5 5 1 0 2
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 60 11 16 2 7 0 2 1
All South Korea born 67 9 14 3 4 1 0 2

Information on migrants was sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Information on the geographical distribution of the total population was sourced from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Table 6: South Korea’s migration ranking relative to other countries

South Korea 2008-09 2009-10
South Korean born Population in Australia 16 12
General Skilled Migration 8 8
Employer sponsored 7 7
Total Skilled Stream 7 8
Total Family Stream 10 10
International Students 3 3
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 14 12
Visitors 5 5

All information refers to the number of visas granted that year and was sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, except for Population in Australia which is sourced from the ABS and refers to the stock of overseas born persons in Australia at the time.

Leave a Reply