Credit: Public domain.
South Korea has a reputation - for the most part, deserved - of being xenophobic and hostile to foreigners. But a recent poll by Gallup Korea 한국 갤럽, conducted in August 2022 and published on May 11, 2023, shows a surprising degree of openness to immigration among South Koreans.
An overwhelming 94% agreed that “expansion of immigration [was] necessary to address the issue of population decline.” A strong majority agreed with the statements that “foreign immigrants contribute to the Korean economy” (60%) and “new ideas and cultural diversity from immigrants help Korean society” (57%). Meanwhile, only 33% agreed with the statement that “foreign immigrants steal Koreans’ jobs,” and 45% agreed with the long-trafficked claim that “Korea is a nation of one ethnicity 단일민족 국가,” while 48% disagreed.
But perhaps it is easier to be in favor of immigration in the abstract. Despite the general approval of immigration in this poll, 68% also said “increased foreign immigration exacerbates tensions in Korean society,” possibly foreshadowing a shift in opinion when the rubber meets the road and non-Korean immigrants become more visible in South Korean society.