The Korean Diaspora

Using js.D3, I mapped data from MOFAT, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of South Korea, of the population of ethnic Koreans living around the world.

Data Work

The data came in the form of awkward tables in a PDF in Korean that I had to sift through, translating and converting the tables into a tsv file. Given the existing data, I decided to create a chloropleth map based on countries. Unfortunately, the map is of nation states, and do not convey to regions where Koreans live which can be misleading for geographically large countries. I hope to map this in future iterations of this visualization project.

2017 World population of ethnic Koreans

This chloropleth map shows the population of ethnic Koreans in countries of the world. Hover to see specific numbers of ethnic Koreans in each country.

Koreans have historically emigrated to China for centuries, particularly close to the border. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Koreans in China ("Joseonjok" or 조선족) were recognized as a national ethnic group of China. During Japanese colonization in the early 20th century, many Koreans were forced to Japan as indentured servants, while others moved in search of a better life. After World War II, Korea was no longer part of the Japanese Empire, but it did not find peace, either; the U.S. and USSR became involved in civil warfare, and the Korean War officially started in 1950. Koreans fled the violence and economic turmoil to various countries over the world, and thousands of Korean adoptees were also sent to the U.S. to be raised by mostly white families. The U.S. became one of the largest destinations after non-European immigrant quotas were abolished in 1965.

Next Steps

I hope to explore the data in the future by considering the percentage of Koreans in the world based on country. In addition, there is some data about the regional distribution of ethnic Koreans within countries, which would be more interesting to map than the data of the countries. Finally, I would like to explore the citizenship status of the ethnic Koreans in the countries in order to get at the different experiences of the diaspora.


So Yeon "Soy" Jeong is an interaction designer interested in data visualization, seeking opportunity to make complex data digestible, interesting and beautiful. Since receiving a B.A. in International Relations from Wellesley College, she has worked in branding and interaction design. She was awarded certificates in computer and multimedia graphics, web design and development, and game design from Pratt Institute, and completed courses at SVA for interaction design and Metis for JavaScript data visualization.

Expert: Sketch, Illustrator, CSS and HTML, InDesign, English, Spanish, Korean.
Advanced: D3.js, Photoshop, After Effects.
Proficient: JavaScript, Unity and C#, R, GitHub.

Email So Yeon at sjeong18 [AT] gmail [DOT] com.