OMNES : The Journal of multicultural society

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OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8 , No. 3

[ Article ]
OMNES: The Journal of Multicultural Society - Vol. 8, No. 1, pp.1-32
ISSN: 2093-5498 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Jul 2017
Received 21 Apr 2017 Reviewed 24 Apr 2017 Accepted 29 May 2017

Migration Transition in South Korea: Features and Factors
Gyuchan Kim
Department of Sociology & Social Welfare, the University of Ulsan (


South Korea has transformed itself into a dominantly migrant-receiving country over the last three decades. Korea makes an important case in studying migration transition due to the high speed of migration growth and diversifying patterns of migration. This paper identifies the patterns of migration growth in Korea and analyzes various contributing factors from both migrant sending and receiving countries’ perspectives. It was found that labor migrants, un-skilled in particular, are the largest contributor to the growth and family migrants, notably female marriage migrants, have been increasingly important. On top of that, ethnic Korean migrants are significant in both the labor and family migration routes. The factor analysis shows that labor market conditions, in terms of higher income and wider job opportunity, in the destination are the strongest driver, but the actual migration flows are not fully explained by economic disparities. Rather, migration flows to Korea, either economic migration or non-economic migration, are influenced by a complex interplay of push, pull, and network factors on the state, family and individual level. However, in all cases the state’s policy considerations and settings have played, and will continue to play, a pivotal role in determining the scale and patterns of migration transition in Korea.

Keywords: migration transition, push-pull factors, labor migration, marriage migration, co-ethnic migration

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Biographical Note

Gyuchan Kim was awarded a Ph.D in social policy in 2016 from the Department of Sociological Studies, the University of Sheffield. He currently teaches social policy in the Department of Sociology & Social Welfare, the University of Ulsan. His research interests include social care, migration and welfare states, and care-migration nexus especially in the East Asian context. Email: (