Number of Chinese residents in S. Korea tops 600,000

The number of Chinese people living in South Korea topped 600,000 for the first time last month, accounting for nearly half of all foreigners in the country, the Justice Ministry said Wednesday.

As of the end of November, 606,408 Chinese nationals, including illegal immigrants and those on short- and long-term stays, were living here, making up 48 percent of some 1.25 million foreign residents, the ministry said.

The tally at the end of October was about 597,000. Chinese nationals of Korean descent accounted for two thirds of the total, numbering 404,000 last month. The majority of the Chinese residents, or 87 percent, had legal justification to live here, while the rest were illegal immigrants.

The Chinese also took up large portions of marriage immigrants and visitors to South Korea. Of some 140,000 marriage immigrants in the country, 66,000, or 47 percent, were Chinese, including about 31,000 of Korean descent. The number of Chinese visitors rose sharply this year, helped by an easing of visa regulations, and hovered around 1.62 million as of the end of November, marking a 44 percent increase from the same period last year.

Chinese students also accounted for three quarters of all foreign students in the country, numbering 67,000. The second-largest foreign community was that of U.S. citizens, with 128,000 residents, while Vietnamese, Filipinos and the Japanese rounded out the other top five nationalities.