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Korean Brazilian
Coreano Brasileiro 한국계 브라질인
Total population
48,419 (2009)[1]
Regions with significant populations
São Paulo City

Portuguese and Korean


Christianity and Buddhism

Related ethnic groups

Other Asian Brazilian, Korean people, Asian American

Korean Brazilian (Portuguese: Coreano-brasileiro) is a Brazilian person of full, partial, or predominantly Korean ancestry, or a Korean-born person residing in Brazil. The Korean population in Brazil, the largest in Latin America, is about 50,000.[2]



Korean immigration to South America began on a small scale in the mid-1950s but was only formalized in 1962, when, to encourage emigration to control population, reduce unemployment, and garner foreign exchange via immigrant remittances, the South Korean government passed its Overseas Emigration Law. In December 1962 the South Korean Ministry of Public Health and Social Affairs, to which the emigration section was attached, sent 92 people (members of seventeen families) to Brazil. Although the South Korean government's desire to direct emigrants to the Southern Hemisphere was based on the size of the Brazilian economy, many Koreans were hindered by the Brazilian government's demand that all visas, including those for tourists, be preapproved.

Life in Brazil

Furthermore, the size of Brazil's economy and the technological sophistication of many of its sectors continue to be attractive to Koreans. This has created a large flow of undocumented Korean migrants from Paraguay to Brazil. In 1992, the South Korean embassy in Brazil extrapolated a population of about 40,000, based on families registered at its various consulates in Brazil. This sample underrepresents the numbers significantly, since undocumented immigrants rarely register with South Korea's representatives in Brazil, and many documented immigrants also choose not to register. Unofficial estimates put the Korean population of Brazil at between two and three times that of the embassy. The overwhelming majority (90 percent)[3] of Korean immigrants live in São Paulo, where they have created some 2,500 small businesses, most of which produce cloth and clothing and many of which are based in their residences. Some Koreans also work in the field of electronic engineering and in the export-import trade. In São Paulo, the majority of Koreans live either in Liberdade neighborhood, the traditional Japanese neighborhood; in Bom Retiro, a traditional immigrant neighborhood most recently populated by East European Jews and the Lebanese; or the formerly Italian neighborhood of Brás.

Return to South Korea

The return migration of Korean Brazilians has been closely related to the economic transformation of Korean community in Brazil and the history of Korean immigration into Brazil since 1963. Most Koreans decided to stay in São Paulo, where they could seek out profitable businesses and build a strong ethnic community in the city. Since the late 1980s, the economic situations of Koreans in Brazil have slowly deteriorated. Many successful Koreans who accumulated sufficient wealth abandoned Brazil to look for economic opportunities elsewhere. Some non-affluent Koreans who failed to adjust to Brazilian society also did not find bright futures in Brazil. Some Korean immigrants in Brazil decided to return to their homeland, the economy of which has grown much faster than Brazil’s since the 1980s. The early Korean immigrants who migrated as family units maintained strong ethnic consciousness. Thus, they were able to adapt to Korean society relatively easily when they returned to Korea. Young Korean Brazilians who completed basic South Korean education in South Korea[4] before moving to Brazil also did not encounter any difficulty in maintaining their Korean identity while living in Brazil thanks to the flexibility of Brazilian ethnic relations. However, second-generation Korean Brazilians did not develop clear ethnic identities in Brazil and had to work hard to be integrated into Korean society.

Notable persons

See also




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